Architecture & Design

Brickell City Centre, Due to Open Thursday, Is a Work in Progress

The $1.05 billion development Brickell City Centre is due to open to the public this Thursday, November 3. But during a walk-through for the media yesterday, construction was still underway. Workers in hardhats paced the innards of the complex. The smell of paint and cement permeated the air. Saws buzzed and yellow caution tape roped off unstable areas. Many of the retail stores were still unfinished. At this point, it’s a race against the clock.

Brickell City Centre is a mixed-use complex that spans three blocks — 9.1 acres — in the Brickell financial district. It consists of more than 100 retail stores, a movie theater, restaurants, two luxury condominium residences named Reach and Rise, two midrise office buildings, and the hotel East, Miami. The complex is easily accessible by Metromover and has two levels of underground parking.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, a select group of retail stores will open their doors. The rest of the shops will open over the following six weeks to capitalize on the holidays. Ninety-two percent of the retail spaces in Brickell City Centre have been leased, including one to Saks Fifth Avenue, which has not opened a new location in Miami in 30 years.

Stephen Owens, president of Hong Kong-based development company Swire Properties, the developer behind the project, says, “This started in 2008. We purchased this land in October at the height of the banking crisis. The... point I want to make is how challenging it’s been. We broke ground in June of 2012. We worked nonstop for four years and four months. So we’ve delivered a project of 4.9 million square feet, well over a billion dollars, and we’ve done it in record time.”

The design team includes renowned Miami-based architecture firm Arquitectonica. Sherri Gutierrez, one of the principal architects, talked about how the design influences visitors' experience. “It’s extremely pedestrian-friendly and pedestrian-welcoming. It’s very porous at the street, inviting people in. It’s a seamless integration of the street and the interior,” Gutierrez says.
One of the coolest features at Brickell City Centre is the $30 million environmental management system — the sculpture-like “climate ribbon.” It connects all components of Brickell City Centre over three blocks. The glass-and-steel trellis is intended to provide breeze, shade, and water collection. Hugh Dutton, principal of Hugh Dutton Associés in Paris, was commissioned by Swire to work with Arquitectonica on the design. “It creates a new environment, a sustainable shopping environment," Dutton says of the climate ribbon. "We’re here on three city blocks. Most of the time, people would build three air-conditioned boxes. We wanted to create something open and that suggests connectivity with the surrounding community.”

He's thrilled to have designed the climate ribbon for Brickell City Centre. “I grew up in Jamaica. My father was a sailor. So it was coming home, in a way, to work on this project. I’m an architect by training, but my heart is in sculpture and art,” Dutton says.

In addition to being sculptural in form, Brickell City Centre plans to integrate the arts into the complex with a series of partnerships and programs. Claire Laverty, assistant vice president of marketing and public relations for Swire Properties, says, “We are partnering with UTA [United Talent Agency] out of Los Angeles to program Art Basel for us. We will have a large mural on the side of Reach condominium tower, with a soon-to-be-revealed artist. We will have an art program within the Centre, where we will showcase different artists every three months. We partner with YoungArts here in Miami to support young talent. We’re going to use the base on the South Miami Avenue bridge as a pop-up for young design talent. Art and culture are a huge part of Swire’s history, and Miami will be no different.”
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth