Transformation Journey of The Shops at Sunset Place in South Miami, FL

The Birth of The Shops at Sunset Place

The Shops at Sunset Place stands at the heart of South Miami, Florida. This outdoor shopping mall, nestled at the intersection of Dixie Highway and Red Road, first opened its doors on December 18, 1998. It marked a significant shift in the local retail landscape, introducing a fresh, open-air concept to the community.

Before The Shops at Sunset Place came into being, the site was home to The Bakery Centre, a retail and office complex established in 1986. This center rose from the remnants of the old Holsum Bread Bakery, a name well-remembered by the locals.

However, The Bakery Centre needed help to capture the public’s interest. It was eventually demolished in 1996, paving the way for a new vision.

The transition from The Bakery Centre to The Shops at Sunset Place was not just a change of structures but a complete overhaul in approach and design. Developers aimed to create a space that blended shopping with leisure, where families, tourists, and locals could find things to do in Miami, FL.

The new mall featured a variety of stores, from fashion giants to tech hubs, alongside entertainment options like cinemas and bowling alleys.

Architectural Marvel and Design

The Shops at Sunset Place is a testament to architectural excellence, spanning three floors with a total retail floor area of 514,000 sq ft.

The mall’s design blends modern aesthetics and functional design, with the Grand Staircase as a striking centerpiece.

The Shops at Sunset Place showcases a unique architectural style that differentiates it from typical malls. Its design emphasizes openness and natural light, inviting shoppers to enjoy the sunny South Miami weather.

The mall’s layout encourages strolls through its wide walkways, surrounded by tropical plants and water features, creating a relaxed shopping environment.

The Grand Staircase is key to its design. This iconic feature serves as a meeting point and offers panoramic views of the bustling streets below.

This architectural element symbolizes the mall’s connection between the urban landscape and the leisurely pace of outdoor shopping.

The integration of The Shops at Sunset Place with the surrounding community is another highlight. The mall’s open-air concept blurs the lines between the shopping center and the city, allowing for a seamless flow of visitors and locals alike.

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This design philosophy was intended to turn the mall into a vibrant hub, reflecting the lively spirit of South Miami.

Some of the Last Tenants Standing

As The Shops at Sunset Place in South Miami, FL, navigates through its quieter days, a select group of tenants continues to breathe life into its halls.

These enduring businesses offer a mix of dining, entertainment, fitness, and cultural experiences, showcasing the mall’s diverse appeal despite its challenges.

Shops at Sunset Place Miami
Shops At Sunset Place” by Phillip Pessar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Culinary Delights and Social Spaces

Taco Genius serves up innovative and delicious taco creations, drawing in food enthusiasts looking for a unique twist on traditional Mexican cuisine. Its vibrant flavors and fresh ingredients make it a must-visit spot in the mall.

Tea & Poets is more than just a tea shop; it’s a community gathering space where patrons can enjoy a wide selection of teas while immersing themselves in poetry readings, open mic nights, and art displays. This cozy spot has become a haven for creatives and tea lovers alike.

Jimmy John’s remains a reliable destination for quick, tasty sandwiches. Known for its speedy service and fresh ingredients, Jimmy John’s caters to shoppers and mall employees seeking a convenient meal.

Entertainment and Leisure for All Ages

GameTime Miami continues to be a family favorite. It offers a wide array of arcade games, prizes, and entertainment options. It’s where fun and competition meet, providing a lively break from shopping.

Just 4 Fun is the go-to spot for parents and children. It offers a safe and engaging play area where kids can be active and socialize while parents relax.

AMC Sunset Place 24 remains a cornerstone of the mall, drawing moviegoers with its latest films and comfortable viewing experiences. Despite the rise of streaming services, this cinema maintains its appeal as a classic entertainment choice.

Educational and Fitness Ventures

School of Rock provides music education for aspiring musicians of all ages, fostering a community of creativity and learning within the mall’s walls.

LA Fitness caters to health-conscious visitors, offering a comprehensive gym experience with various classes and fitness equipment, ensuring that wellness remains a priority for the South Miami community.

Cultural and Literary Corners

Barnes & Noble is a literary oasis, offering many books, magazines, and café treats. It’s a place for readers to find their next great read or unwind in a cozy corner.

Area Stage enriches the cultural fabric of South Miami with its theater productions and acting classes, proving that art and community can thrive even in less traditional spaces.

Despite the changing retail landscape, these last tenants of The Shops at Sunset Place continue to offer valuable services and experiences to the South Miami community. They stand as a testament to the mall’s enduring legacy and the potential for revival and transformation.

Ownership and Economic Shifts

Ownership of The Shops at Sunset Place has changed hands several times, reflecting the mall’s fluctuating fortunes and the evolving retail market.

Initially managed by Simon Property Group, the mall saw a transaction in October 2015 when Federal Realty, Grass River Property, and Comras Company acquired it for $110 million. This sale marked a new chapter in the mall’s history, introducing fresh strategies and visions for its future.

However, the retail landscape’s challenges became evident when Midtown Opportunities acquired the mall in January 2021 for $65.5 million, a notable decrease from its previous sale price.

This transaction underscored the economic shifts affecting brick-and-mortar retail spaces. It highlighted the need for innovative approaches to mall management and development.

These ownership changes have profoundly impacted the mall’s direction and strategy. Each new owner brought different perspectives and plans, aiming to rejuvenate the space and adapt to the changing retail environment.

The economic shifts have prompted a reevaluation of the mall’s offerings and its role in the community, leading to efforts to enhance its appeal and ensure its sustainability.

Sunset Place’s New Horizon: Demolition and Redevelopment

In January 2024, South Miami announced plans to demolish The Shops at Sunset Place, signaling the end of an era for the once-thriving mall.

Covering ten acres at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Red Road, the mall had become a shadow of its former self, with many of its 60 storefronts empty and only a few, including a movie theater and Barnes & Noble, remaining operational.

The decision to tear down the mall comes after years of declining foot traffic and failed attempts to rejuvenate the space.

The Shops at Sunset Place opened in 1998 but could not compete with nearby malls like Dadeland, The Falls, and Merrick Park.

The local community, critical of the mall’s design and lack of integration with the surrounding area, only partially embraced it.

South Miami’s new plan involves replacing the mall with a development that is more in tune with the community’s needs, including small shops, residential units, hotel space, office areas, and a new movie theater.

This redevelopment aims to create a pedestrian-friendly environment that blends seamlessly with the town center.

However, the approval process for these plans is expected to take around four years, leaving the area with the nearly vacant mall for now.

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