It’s not every day that a city is born, but it happened Jan. 28, 2003, when Doral, Florida, was incorporated, becoming one of 34 municipalities in Miami-Dade County. That paved the way for Codina Partners to move forward with a grand-scale mixed-use project 1 mile from Miami International Airport and 12 miles from Downtown Miami. Called Downtown Doral, the project includes homes, schools, a government center, retail and, pivotally, restaurants.
Nineteen years later, the 250-acre project is two-thirds complete. It’s a residential and office community, but it’s the more than 70 retail stores, restaurants, bars and entertainment spaces — spanning 250,000 square feet and split roughly 45% non-food to 55% food — that people think of when they refer to Downtown Doral, according to JLL retail advisory senior vice president Rafael Romero, who handles business development, as well as landlord and tenant representation, throughout Florida.
Photo credit N25 Drone Media
Ana-Marie Codina Barlick — CEO of development, investment and property management firm Codina Partners — said her team has taken its time to find the right restaurateurs and chefs. They wanted a unique and varied offering so a visitor could have different cuisine every night.
Restaurants include tapas place Bulla Gastrobar; Dragonfly Izakaya & Fish Market, a combination restaurant and fish market with a sushi-centric menu; and Pisco y Nazca, a ceviche gastrobar with unique cocktails. Coming soon are DC Pie Co., a brick-oven, Brooklyn-style pizza joint by Lucali owner Dominic Cavagnuolo; Sports Grill, a Miami staple serving grilled wings; and a first Florida location for Texas eatery Sweet Paris Creperie & Cafe.
The project has drawn prominent chefs like celebrity pastry chef Antonio Bachour, who opened Bachour restaurant and bar; and Eileen Andrade of Finka Table & Tap, who opened Barbakoa by Finka. New York City-based Mexican chef Julian Medina will open a 5,000-square-foot Mexican restaurant at Downtown Doral for his first South Florida outpost.
The 125-seat Barbakoa by Finka opened with its Latin-Asian barbecue-based fusion menu in October 2021. Chef and restaurant operator Eileen Andrade opened the spot to reach a new demographic than the one she already serves in West Kendall, Florida.
“It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood,” Andrade said of Doral. “It was important for our brand to reach a new neighborhood, something that we hadn’t tapped into before. Possibly the people in Doral wouldn’t necessarily go to West Kendall to our other locations, so it was important for me to tap into a new community and reach new followers.”
Before the area emerged officially as Downtown Doral, the food tenants it drew were small local operators like Venezuelan and Colombian chains and traditional U.S. chains like Wendy’s and Panera, according to Romero, who along with his JLL team is marketing roughly 30,000 square feet of retail in the latest phase of Century Homebuilders Group’s Midtown Doral project in Doral.
Midtown Doral. Rendering courtesy of Century Homebuilders Group
“Downtown Doral is particularly important,” Romero said. “What I think it proved early on was the ability to support real retail, real restaurants and entertainment, and it’s those components that have put it on the map to locals.”
When Maria Juncadella, managing principal of South Florida commercial brokerage Fairchild Partners, assumed the retail leasing assignment at Downtown Doral about two years ago, the retail portion of the project was 70% leased and another 10% was in the pipeline. Today, it’s 90% leased. She said most prospects the team considers are Florida restaurateurs and retailers that are new to Doral or looking to expand their Doral presences. The second-highest inquiry volume comes from outside Florida, followed by businesses from Latin America looking to establish Miami outposts.
Shops at Downtown Doral include the European-style TG Bridal boutique, Ballet Boutique dancewear, full-service boutique flower shop Doral Orchids Florals & Events and Skyros Sports, a sports apparel brand known for high-quality running gear and accessories. South Florida cigar lounge Smoke & Oak also recently signed a deal there.
Retail and restaurant asking rents at Downtown Doral start at $50 per square foot per year net of common area maintenance charges. Terms span five to 10 years, per a Codina spokeswoman. Meanwhile, retail sales have been ticking up there. At 21 stores that Codina has been tracking, sales have increased 40% from 2019 levels, the spokeswoman said. The tenants with the largest increases have been restaurants and experiential retail. “This is a primarily residential community, but the retail is the ultimate amenity,” Codina Barlick noted.
Downtown Doral is a $1 billion, mixed-use infill development that stretches from Northwest 87th Avenue to Northwest 79th Avenue and from Northwest 54th Street to Northwest 41st Street. Conceptualized by Coral Gables, Florida-based Codina Partners in the early 2000s, the master-planned mixed-use community includes 1 million square feet of Class A office, 5,000 residential units, an elementary school, a middle and high school property, City Hall and public green spaces.
Downtown Doral. Photo credit: Robin Hill
Codina Partners acquired the first part of the site, a suburban office park, in 2004. In 2016, Codina and Miami-based Lennar acquired an active golf course. Lennar is the developer of Urbana, a new home community within Downtown Doral. The entire Downtown Doral should be complete in about five years, Codina Barlick said.
The project has paved the way for other developments in Doral, which had a population of 75,874 as of April 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “It’s one of the largest concentrations of single-owner-controlled and developed residential [space] in Doral,” Romero said. Besides Midtown Doral, projects of note in Doral include the Doral Square retail and office development and CityPlace Doral, which offers retail, entertainment, dining and homes. And former President Donald Trump is looking to add a mixed-use development called Doral International Towers to Trump National Doral Golf Club, according to Commercial Observer.
In recent times, Doral has seen rapid growth, offering new residences and dynamic retail. Indeed, according to the city of Doral’s website, Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center Doral named it the fastest-growing city in Florida and 11th in the country.
Juncadella, the broker handling Downtown Doral’s retail leasing, said Doral is a former “sleepy” suburban area, in which Codina Partners created a “work-live-play-learn community.” She added that Codina Partners has curated the retail to ensure it remains a family-friendly destination, “which is not easy because a lot of the businesses that have survived and done well have to do with bars and more adult-type of places.”
Romero gives Codina Partners props for developing a project that the whole family can enjoy. “Downtown Doral has done an exceptional job of creating a retail environment that is very, very family friendly,” he said.
Photo credit for the above and image at top: Downtown Doral
—Additional reporting by Commerce + Communities Today editor-in-chief Amanda Metcalf
By Lauren Elkies Schram
Contributor, Commerce + Communities Today