Sunday, July 16, 2017

Lincoln Road Mall, South Beach (Miami), FL

      Florida's interest in open-air malls always wonders me. Being consistently hot, humid, and rainy, an open-air mall would drive me away. And I'm from Georgia, so you can't say I'm not used to it. This affected me as we take a look at a famous example of this, Lincoln Road Mall. Only half the mall is photographed, but you should get the point. The directory was captured.

Directory peeks at the mall. IMO, the mall is only about six blocks long. Parts are filled with very tacky tourist shops
or are kinda dead.
     Lincoln Road Mall consists of ten blocks surrounding the namesake Lincoln Road. Near the midpoint is a three-story Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) in a repurposed theatre. Behind it is a Macy's. As you get closer to the beach, more touristy shops start popping up. Duplicates are also common at the mall. Four Starbucks and two Haagen-Dazs exist on street corners. A random church without AC is near the center of the mall, possibly a pointer to the "older" Lincoln Road Mall.

Local merchants are clearly out and about in the center of the mall.

     The history of the mall was a lot longer than expected. The area was once a forest of mangroves, but was cleared in 1912. A road was built through and eventually stores started popping up on it. Saks, Bonwit Teller, and a few car dealers were some of the first. Bonwit Teller would move to Bal Harbour in 1965. In the mid 1950's, Morris Lapidus was called on to redesign the street. The road was closed to traffic, and one of the first pedestrian malls was born. Lincoln Road became famous for its architecture over time.

I love malls with plenty of greenspace.

     The aforementioned architecture is pretty cool. Elaborate fountains dot the central median. Statues and art can be seen walking through the mall. Plenty of greenspace make the mall feel like more of a mall than a street. All the buildings look clean and white and fit in pretty well. 1111 Lincoln Road, a parking garage, is also near the mall. I think the only design flaw is the traffic flow in the area. Cutting off every intersecting road in mall proper would probably help with this. Parking is also done through an app, which is a pretty big pain for non-locals. 

     The one massive problem with the mall is vacancies. About a quarter of the mall is empty, which makes me wonder why they expanded twice recently, in 2006 and 2010. I feel like this might be a rent cost problem and not a person problem. Places like J. Crew and H&M can afford large stores, but more mid-market chains don't see the need. It's also touristy, and tourist traps wouldn't have cheap rent. Meanwhile, thriving Starbucks has four locations. This gives the mall an odd feel, with the mix of vacancies, duplicates, cheap touristy crap, upper-market chains, and trendy wares.
     I think the mall will continue to do well. It's clinging on a tourist bubble, and people go there for the fame and history. Foot traffic never hurts malls, and tourists may cool off at Starbucks as they walk. Walking past plenty of dressed mannequins will probably impulse you to buy some clothes as you walk. But if the decline of shopping malls ends up hurting "destination" malls, then the owners could be at a crossroads of the mall's future. Locals avoid it, tourists flock to it, and it's uncomfortable most of the time, so it's not invincible. 

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