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

MIAMI-Flagler Development Group will break ground Oct. 21 on the next phase of TIAA-CREF’s $100-million rehabilitation of the existing Kendall Town & Country Center, which has now been renamed the Palms at Town & Country. The newest development at the 72-acre site, located at 8268 Mills Drive, is set to include 400,000 sf of open-air retail that will be built over the next three years. Approximately 150,000 sf of the new product will be delivered next fall, says Jim Padron, senior development manager with Flagler.

Phase one of the open-air center is finished, including renovation of an existing 300,000-sf convenience center, the building of an 88,000-sf Kohl’s and the demolition of an existing indoor mall on the site. The department store, which did its own construction, opened Oct. 1, says Padron. The existing building, which has been given a major facelift and parking revamp, is also open with national retailers such as Marshall’s, 24 Hour Fitness and Publix. In June GlobeSt.com reported that Jones Lang LaSalle was hired by TIAA-CREF as the leasing agent for the project.

“With the economic downturn many retailers are pulling back on openings and leasing, especially in secondary and tertiary markets,” says Michael J. Longmore, senior vice president with JLL. “We have found with this project it hasn’t been the case,” he says. “We’ve had major leasing response from national and local retailers.” The central location off the Florida Turnpike and Kendall Drive is one of the top retail sites in the market, he says, and the 200,000 cars that go by the spot each day has been a major draw to the Palms at Town & Country.

Two medical office condo buildings totaling 134,000 sf, including four levels of structured parking, were also recently completed on the site. Almost 50% of the units in the first building are in the process of closing, says Padron.

In total, TIAA-CREF and Flagler hope to create a one-million-sf pedestrian-friendly lifestyle center in the growing Kendall submarket. According to a third-quarter Marcus & Millichap retail report, the Coral Gables/Kendall market enjoys the lowest vacancy rates in Miami-Dade County at 3.9%, with average rental rates of $25.05, the highest in the county.

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