Has the Great Sidewalk Experiment Paid Off?
It has been more than a year now since the great downtown sidewalk experiment (aka the $24 million streetscape project) was completed – broadening the sidewalk of Miracle Mile into a boulevard and making Giralda east of Ponce into a pedestrian plaza. Could that investment be paying off?
If you measure success by incoming restaurants, the answer is a resounding yes. Francesca Valdes (pictured above), the city’s retail mastermind, says there is more to it than the sidewalks. “Three years ago, the city commissioned a retail strategy,” she says. “A key target of that strategy was bringing in more chef driven restaurant concepts.” Valdes points to a stunning array in the past year alone: Ad Lib, under the helm of Norman Van Aken; Bachour Bakery, from world renowned pastry chef Antonio Bachour; Salumeria 104 with Chef/co-owner Antonio Masarin; Caja Caliente with Chef/Owner Monica Leon; Someone’s Son with Chef Carl Guiallaume; and Fiola with James Beard Award nominated Chef Fabio Trabocchi.
But there is more to come, says Valdes. By the time you read this, Coyo Taco will have opened on Giralda Plaza, to be followed by Sweet Greens, Piuma (Italian) and La Sandwicherie (yes, the one on South Beach and in Brickell). Segafredo, the Italian lifestyle and coffee brand, will open a café at 382 Miracle Mile.
Even more significantly, the big anchor spaces downtown are being filled: a new building is going up at the northeast corner of Le Jeune and the Mile, where the upscale Mexican restaurant Mezcal will rise in the place where Randazzo’s finally burned out; Macchialina, under the direction of James Beard semifinalist chef/owner Michael Pirolo, will open a 5,400-square foot space in Alhambra Tower, with an additional 3,000 square feet of patio space.
Finally, and most dear to the hearts of all who despaired at the closing of Tarpon Bend, restaurateur and nightclub owner Ramon Jones announced he will be opening a 6,300 square foot restaurant, The Gramercy, at 65 Miracle Mile. Jones has a string of popular nightclubs and restaurants to his credit, including Miami Beach’s Mokai Lounge, Kiki on the River, and, most recently, Mandrake. Will the old fans of Tarpon Bend once again spill onto the sidewalk at happy hour? Jones says he’ll be open in time for the holidays.