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(Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real Estate Florida.)

COCONUT GROVE, FL-Just a few months after forming, Stierheim & Wesson Retail Realty Inc. has announced a major retail leasing assignment at CocoWalk, an open-air shopping mall in the heart of this Miami neighborhood. Commercial real estate industry professionals Mia Stierheim and Earl Wesson have formed a two-office operation serving the South Florida and Tampa Bay markets.

The firm plans to focus on the development, leasing and repositioning of retail and mixed-use projects. Stierheim, who previously represented CocoWalk as director of retail for Colliers Abood Wood-Fay, heads the Coconut Grove office.

Wesson runs the Indian Rocks Beach office and works on grocery-anchored retail centers in Tampa, Ocala and Melbourne. He is owner of Wesson Realty & Development, and was previously director of real estate for Kash n’ Karry Food Stores Inc. in Tampa, where he was involved in remarketing the chain into Sweetbay Supermarkets. He also served as the vice president of real estate for Tampa-based Commercial Corners Inc. and worked on several Chevron gas stations across the state as VP of real estate for Cortek Properties Inc. in St. Petersburg.

Wesson and Stierheim have worked with CocoWalk since PMAT Real Estate Investments, the new owner, was considering buying the property, providing assistance through the due-diligence process three months prior to the final purchase in September 2006. Since then, Stierheim has leased the property with Colliers.

“It was a difficult decision,” Stierheim tells GlobeSt.com. “I loved working for Colliers, but the CocoWalk account required someone to be on site full time. PMAT offered me a contract to focus my energies and be more proactive than reactive. It allowed me to leave Colliers, where I was also working on eight more properties, and form my own company with Wesson.”

Since PMAT purchased CocoWalk, located at 3015 Grand Ave., the company has put more than $7 million into capital improvements to revive it as a class A center. Stierheim worked on most of the center’s current leases, and gave GlobeSt.com a glimpse of upcoming openings and changes that can be expected there in the near future.

A new Chili’s restaurant will open on the third level above the Cheesecake Factory on July 21, with the 6,400-sf restaurant hosting a 300-seat dining area plus an outdoor Margarita Bar. AMC movie theater will vacate its space at the center in mid-2009, when a Muvico theater will take its place, featuring a dining concept and possibly a bowling alley within its 50,000-sf space, says Stierheim.

In addition, Crazy Pianos, an upscale restaurant with a stage featuring dueling pianos, plans to open in October. Starbucks has also signed on to open sometime this month in 1,800 sf that will introduce a new high-end coffee shop concept. A 5,500-sf Full Bodied Wine and Spa, the first spa of its kind in Florida, is expected to open by August and feature full treatments and wine products.

Stierheim is now working to lease 17,000-sf of vacant space in the center left by Visions Night Club and a martini bar, where she says she’s looking to sign a high-end nightclub and a high-end sports bar. In terms of rental rates, she says on the street level she was able to sign prices from $50 to $105 per sf, triple net. On the second level she has signed up to $65 per sf and $45 on the third level.

“Going forward, we will be focusing on grocery-anchored and lifestyle centers,” says Wesson of the newly formed company. “There are opportunities in the Miami-Dade market that we have been working on for a number of years, including a very large mixed-use project which got sidelined in the downturn.”

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