Growing up in South Florida, I was able to see one of the fastest growing and wealthiest communities in the world first hand. I watched as US-41 transformed from a 2-lane road into a 6-lane highway. I watched as the small immediate care center I was born in was replaced by a gorgeous shopping center, which was quickly overshadowed and outdated by the new mixed-use development The Strada at Mercato. And this has all happened in the 21 years I’ve been alive. Imagine the transition my dad experienced, now a 53 year Naples native.
It seemed that until the recent struggles, every time when I would visit on vacation, new and revolutionizing mixed-use developments would appear. One of these developments, Coconut Point, was formulated by a partnership led by Simon Property Group. This relationship combined the ideals of both outdoor mall style retail shops and restaurants, with high-end condominiums overlooking the shops. The atmosphere surrounding this development is astonishing and it continues to outperform all other area competition.
Don Graves, a successful area realtor, bought into the idea early enough that he purchased a unit strictly as a personal investment. Graves currently rents his unit year-round to area visitors. Since completion, he’s been able get a better understanding of why people love the mixed-use concept so much. Graves believes, “Coconut Point has been a success because people from the Northeast are used to the accessibility it provides, and others quickly take a liking to lifestyle as well.” Tenants of Grave’s are within short walking distance to movie theaters, high-end retailers, and outstanding cuisine. This ease of lifestyle has created a demand unlike other area properties. Grave’s contributed a tremendous amount of the success at Coconut Point to Simon’s ability to secure long term retail tenants. This demand is representative of the change of lifestyle and the changing of people’s behaviors.
Personally I believe that with the struggles Americans have faced in recent years, lifestyle changes will only increase the demand for mixed use project that allow owners and tenants an easier and more cost efficient lifestyle than typical suburban life. Walks to grocery stores, area restaurants, and other daily stops will become the norm as Americans become more aware of the environmental and financial impacts endured by typical suburban practices. South Florida’s mixed-use projects like The Strada at Mercato, Coconut Point, and Bayshore represent the beginning of this transition in one of the nation’s best areas.
In the coming weeks, I will critically approach each of these specific development in an exciting and informative blog series on “What worked, and what didn’t,” interviewing Florida’s key development individuals.