Lincoln Theatre/Miami Beach, FL

Miami Today

Thursday January 27, 2010

At final curtain, performance venue to play new retail role


As the New World Symphony lowers the curtain on the Lincoln Theatre to move onto its new campus, the historic building is being transformed from a performance venue into a multilevel retail center.

Lyle Stern, a retail veteran, along with a group of real estate investors teamed up to buy the 1935vintage theater at 541 Lincoln Road and an adjoining four-story office building last February.

The partners, led by Mr. Stern, business partner Bruce Koniver and Cliff Stein, an accountant and attorney who heads Savitar Realty Advisors, plan to transform the Lincoln Theatre into a retail hub while restoring and preserving its historic attributes.

The project was presented to Miami Beach’s Historic Preservation Board and won its approval in October, said Mr. Stern, president of Miami Beach-based retail real estate leasing and consulting firm Koniver Stern Group.

Despite some opponents who wanted the building to remain an artistic venue, the board gave the green light to the redevelopment.

The new ownership aims to begin construction in the second quarter and to open the retail complex in the first quarter of 2012, Mr. Stern said.

The project is to encompass close to 35,000 square feet of retail space.

It includes "restoring its historical elements," Mr. Stern said, "and the plan the board approved allows us to pay true homage to the history of the building."

Preserving the historic entrance, including the lobby and mezzanine, is important, he said, and was requested by the preservation board as part of its approval.

Plans also include opening up the big concrete wall at the building’s rear facing Lincoln Lane to allow pedestrians to see the interior.

Three to four retailers, including a main anchor, are to occupy multi-level spaces.

Although tenants have yet to be signed, the owners have been in negotiations for 18 months with several prospective retailers who would add to the prestige of Lincoln Road, Mr. Stern said.

"The tenants we are sourcing are both US based and European based, and are comfortable with a multi-level store floor plan, he said.

Mr. Stern has owned commercial properties along Lincoln Road and Collins Avenue for years.

He specializes in retail leasing, landlord brokerage and consulting.

The project was designed with "an eye to the future of Lincoln Road," he said. The street "has the potential to continue to be one of the greatest pedestrian streets in the country."

Lincoln Theatre served as the New World Symphony’s home for 22½ years. But more than 10 years ago, founder and Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas began efforts to build the symphony a new home.

The symphony has grown in stature, as has its need to embrace new technology for artistic and education programs, said Howard Herring, symphony president and chief executive officer.

"Some of the finest musicians are coming to us as part of this program. We needed a new facility," Mr. Herring said. "We will have a very good time on the weekend we open the building celebrating this milestone, and in truth, this is about the mission and vision of the institutional transformation."

The three-piece redevelopment includes the New World Center, the symphony’s new home; a 2.5-acre public park, and a 550-space city garage with retail on the ground level.

The city hired Mr. Stern to handle leasing of the garage’s street-level retail space.

With about 7,000 square feet of retail available, Mr. Stern said, the city and firm see it as an opportunity to keep Lincoln Road tenants that could be priced out of the area.

"This will give them an alternative to leaving the Beach," he said, where rates are in the $150-persquare-foot range and landlords are choosing to lease to retailers with a strong ownership.

The garage’s available square footage should accommodate about six small spaces, with leasing rates at about $100 per square foot. Leases have yet to be inked, but negotiations are under way.

With the garage’s centric location at Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street, Mr. Stern said, the retailers will benefit from foot traffic from the nearby Miami Beach Convention Center, the garage above, another public garage across the street and bustling Lincoln Road.

"We expect this to be a beehive of activity," he said. And so far, "the response has been phenomenal."

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