MIAMI-Flagler and AMB Property Corp. have unveiled plans to dowhat no other developers have dared since the recessionstarted—build a big-box shopping center in Miami.

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The development duo will build The Shops at Beacon Lakes, thefirst project in a six million-square-foot master planned businesspark. The project is scheduled to come online in late 2012 or early2013.

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The first major big-box retail development in the WestMiami-Dade submarket in more than two years, the Shops at BeaconLakes will span 45 acres. The project will offer 470,000 squarefeet of build-to-suit retail development near the intersection ofthe Florida Turnpike and the Dolphin Expressway (836).

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“Retail is a key amenity for our business park,” Brian Latta,senior project manager of development at Flagler, tellsGlobeSt.com. “When we went through the rezoning process we gotinvolved with the community and the neighbors said they wanted aretail center. There are a lot of rooftops out there. We havethe demographics and the demand.”

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Beth Azor, principal of Azor Advisory Services in Davie, tellsGlobeSt.com that Dade County is a hot market for retailers. That’sbecause national retailers are seeing significant sales inMiami.

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“With a new project, retailers can build their prototype,” Azorsays. “They don’t have to go through variances to retrofit olderboxes. That’s appealing to retailers. Plus, Flagler has owned thisland for a long time, so their basis is lower than competitors.That means they can be more competitive on rents than developerswho are buying land at today’s prices.”

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Flagler and AMB have owned the land that’s being developed for10 years. That could allow the joint venture to come to market withrental rates that are more in line with what retailers are willingto pay and still turn a profit.

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The challenge for Flagler and AMB isn’t land costs or financing.The joint venture has equity in the land and AMB, a public REIT,has a strong balance sheet. The challenge may be filling uphundreds of thousands of square feet of retail space in a marketthat may or may not be fully recovered at grand opening. Latta, ofcourse, is optimistic.

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“We are seeing a lot more interest from retailers,” Latta says.“If you look at just the attendance at the International Council ofShopping Centers in Vegas from last year to this year, it was upsubstantially. Retailers are back in the market and feeling muchmore confident this year.”

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But Flagler isn’t taking any chances. The joint venture hasalready hired Continental Real Estate Companies (CREC) as theexclusive leasing and marketing agent for The Shops at BeaconLakes. The early appointment signals the development team’s plansto aggressively market the property to tenants. CREC’s goal is tofill the development with a mix of big box retailers and smallertenants.

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“Future tenants can commit with confidence knowing this projectis backed by two well capitalized, well respected real estatedevelopers who have depth of knowledge and years of experience,namely Flagler and AMB,” says Sabrina Meerbott, senior vicepresident at CREC.

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