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Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road is betting on outdoor dining and culture. Locals are key

Jun. 19, 2020

When Timothy Schmand took over as executive director of the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District almost 2 1/2 years ago, the closest Miami had come to a pandemic was on a movie screen.

Lincoln Road, it seemed then, had more pressing problems. Commercial rents were soaring, forcing small businesses from Miami Beach’s signature pedestrian promenade, and the freewheeling ambiance of the Road seemed to be giving way to corporate slickness.

Last year, rates began to cool. As 2020 began, new local-market tenants were lining up, including Miami’s first Amazon four-star location — a concept where the store’s inventory includes only top selling items rated four-stars and above on amazon.com. Lincoln Road was also set to welcome its first hotels onto the promenade, and was set to close the installation of 13 monumental Botero sculptures erected in November 2019. And the BID was looking to finalize the pre-construction process associated with a $67 million revitalization project designed by James Corner, the landscape architect responsible for New York’s High Line.

Then came COVID-19. Lincoln Road — and the rest of the county — went dark.

The BID pivoted to a recovery plan designed to support businesses while balancing public health concerns. In the “new normal,” attracting residents through experiential retail and unique, open-air activations will be even more critical to the Road’s strategic success.

In the pandemic age, how would you describe Lincoln Road’s competitive advantage when compared to other, newer lifestyle locations in Miami?

The Lincoln Road District, with its vibrant charm, eclectic culture, and artistic atmosphere, is the embodiment of Miami Beach. Unlike other shiny, new lifestyle destinations, we are sewn into the fabric of this city and will continue to withstand the test of time.

Once referred to as the “Fifth Avenue of the South,” the District is brimming with experiential venues that have broken the mold by redefining what it means to shop, dine, stroll and celebrate. From local retailers like Fritz’s Surf, Bike & Skate Shop and The Dog Bar, which have been on Lincoln Road for decades, to national favorites like Brandy Melville, Dr. Martens, and Amazon, to revolutionary retailers like Showfields, set to open in August, the Lincoln Road District is paving the way for a modern era of experiential concepts through our growing roster of diverse tenants.

Aside from shopping, the District is also a top dining destination. The Road defined café culture in Miami decades ago and is now home to various chef driven restaurants, eateries, and food halls. This, coupled with the creativity cultivated through BID sponsored arts and cultural activations, has allowed Lincoln Road to evolve, ushering in a new chapter for the promenade that’s relevant and modern, yet consistent with the quintessential charm that has made us a cultural icon in Miami for more than a century. Plus, I can’t think of a better place to people watch in Miami — Lincoln Road has the rest of the city beat.

Prior to the pandemic, the Lincoln Road District worked closely with the City of Miami Beach on a plan to revitalize the pedestrian promenade. Is this still in the works?
Yes, the revitalization of Lincoln Road will still take place. In August of 2019, the City of Miami Beach committed $67 million for design and construction costs while property owners in the Lincoln Road BID agreed to tax themselves an additional $16 million, to be used towards cultural activations and programming, once the project is complete. James Corner Field Operations, the New York landscape architecture firm behind the High Line in Manhattan, is at the helm of the revitalization. The plan includes new sculptural elements and public art, reorganized café seating, additional public and green space, upgrades to lighting, landscaping, and drainage, improved streetscapes and pedestrian access, and more.

The City of Miami Beach recently presented the Lincoln Road BID with a list of items from the James Corner plan that the BID and the City can begin to move forward with. There is a meeting scheduled for next week to discuss the list and timing for implementation.

While we are still eager to finalize the pre-construction process and break ground on the revitalization plan, the COVID-19 events shifted our focus to supporting our businesses. Now that restaurants and retailers have reopened on the Road, the BID is focused on a recovery plan designed to support our businesses, protect our visitors, and support county and city efforts to safeguard our community overall.

The blueprint for our recovery includes reemerging as a safe, outdoor destination focused on arts, culture, shopping, dining, and entertainment.

With so much uncertainty about the return of international tourism to Miami Beach, how is the Lincoln Road District preparing to sustain itself in near term?

The Lincoln Road District has always been a top destination for residents and locals; in fact, 40% of our yearly pedestrian traffic is local. Home to approximately 100,000 residents, Miami Beach also sits across the way from nearby, well-populated areas like Downtown Miami, Edgewater, Midtown and Brickell, and we look forward to bringing even more locals back to Lincoln Road.

Aside from locals, recent studies have also shown that 50% of the nation is expected to take a road trip within the next three months and Miami is number three on the top 17 most desirable places. As nearby hotels reopen and the District’s restaurants and retailers’ welcome back locals, the out-of-towners will follow suit. The Lincoln Road District is an exceptional, outdoor destination that offers something for everyone, while remaining unique to itself. One simply does not come to Miami without visiting Lincoln Road. Historically, we’ve welcomed over 11 million visitors annually.

Amid a ‘new normal,’ what is the Lincoln Road District doing to reposition itself in a way that will once again attract foot traffic to the Road while keeping people safe?
The Lincoln Road BID has acquired market research, as it relates to the current behavioral economics surrounding the public’s opinion on visiting cultural destinations like Lincoln Road.

What we have found through the research conducted is that people are interested in pursuing the same pastimes as they did prior to the pandemic, but that they are more likely to visit outdoor locations with cultural offerings rather than indoor destinations — it makes them feel safer. Preliminary evidence has also shown that coronavirus transmissions are more likely to occur indoors due to proximity and recirculated air. As an eight-block pedestrian promenade with an expansive outdoor footprint that includes natural foliage and native landscaping, Lincoln Road is the ideal destination for those seeking to enjoy shopping, dining, leisurely walks and cultural experiences in a safe, open-air environment.

The Lincoln Road District is home to the New World Symphony (NWS) — featuring a 7,000-square-foot screen that overlooks Soundscape Park, making it the perfect location to enjoy a concert or movie outdoors. We are also working with the Bass Museum and the NWS to further activate Lincoln Road and Soundscape Park for cultural, recreational, and wellness programming. Also, in the works, and subject to Miami Beach City Commission approval, is a rooftop cinema, which will sit atop the upcoming CitizenM Hotel on Alton Road, and will safely offer patrons a “dinner and a movie” experience under the stars.

In addition to outdoor arts and cultural experiences, the Lincoln Road District is also home to a variety of rooftop bars and restaurants including The Nest, situated on top of the Lincoln Eatery, Juvia, Mila, and soon-to-be Andres Carnes des Res, as well as a renowned café culture, with outdoor restaurants lining the length of the Road.

To ensure safety and cleanliness, Lincoln Road upholds strict daily sanitation standards including an ongoing pressure washing schedule of all pedestrian surfaces. The Lincoln Road BID has also deployed our team of ambassadors to assist the public, request that visitors observe social distancing guidelines, and supplement the Road’s daily cleaning schedule by wiping down all surfaces and touch points throughout the day. We also worked with the City of Miami Beach to install two touch-free public hand-washing stations on each of the eight blocks that make up Lincoln Road. Moreover, the BID commissioned local artist Jayda Knight, who was once a set designer for the popular comedy show Saturday Night Live, to design fashionable face masks, which are distributed by ambassadors free of charge to pedestrians who feel safest when donning protective gear. The use of face masks is strongly encouraged when strolling Lincoln Road.

Over the past year, Lincoln Road has announced major local, national and international retailers signing leases on the Road. What role has the BID played in this?
To attract the biggest names in retail, a destination must be thriving with arts, culture, and entertainment — this is what entices a person to visit a specific location over any other. Since my arrival to the Lincoln Road BID, I have been working with the BID’s board and property owners to transform the perception of Lincoln Road from a tourist-driven destination into a social and cultural epicenter that’s tapped into its roots as a creative corridor where modern art, sidewalk cafes, shopping, and lively activations can be found on every corner.

The BID’s property owners and board members include some of the biggest names in retail and real estate both in Miami and nationally with Lyle Stern of Koniver Stern, Michael Comras of the Comras Company, and Stephen Bittel of Terranova paving the way for the revolution of retail and bringing their expert insight — and in turn highly sought-after tenants — to Lincoln Road. The culmination of these factors plus the addition of famed retailers and the district’s many cultural venues including the Colony Theatre, Fillmore and New World Symphony, have created a winning formula for the continued success of the Lincoln Road District.

Jane Wooldridge, The Miami Herald
Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/