Surf, Sun and Shopping: CRE Executive Stephen Bittel on the Strength of the Pedestrian Mall in South Florida
EntrepreneursBreak, by Ethan – November 17th, 2022
With gorgeous beaches of fine white sand and turquoise blue waters, dotted with palm trees and temperatures that rarely dip below 70 degrees, it is obvious what draws people to live and play in South Florida. Nobody can deny the siren song of a city that sees sunny days for over two-thirds of the year, but the weather does more than just create perfect beach days. It has also helped Lincoln Road flourish as one of the few remaining original pedestrian malls in the United States.
According to Stephen Bittel, an investor with over three decades of experience in commercial real estate, the most-visited destination in Florida is the beach. Calling it the “starting magic,” he explained that with Lincoln Road’s location only a few blocks from the ocean it is ideally located as a spot for retail and dining after a day at the beach. Bittel’s company Terranova Corporation has owned property on the street since 2011 when it closed on a landmark three-building deal to the tune of $52 million. By 2014 his firm had purchased six properties in total on Lincoln Road at the cost of $191 million, and later completed one of the largest deals in South Florida history when it sold them for $342 million, and again reinvesting.
Terranova’s investment in Lincoln Road properties was part of a larger pivot on the part of Stephen Bittel, whose previous strategy for the business involved a heavy focus on the suburban properties that had spurred the development of pedestrian malls in the first place. In post-World War II America people began migrating to the suburbs at record rates, and by the 1960s and 1970s enclosed shopping centers began appearing en masse in these areas, further driving customers away from the downtown shopping malls that had proliferated in earlier years.