Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The city still can't find tenants to fill up retail spaces along the stadium's parking garages.
Add another item to the growing list of problems for the Miami Marlins and their $634 million, mostly publicly funded ballpark: empty storefronts.
According to a Miami Herald report published this week, the Marlins' on-field fire sale has been making it even more difficult for the city to find tenants for 8,500 square feet of retail space inside four city-owned parking garages surrounding the stadium. Two national chains even signed letters of intent, only to back out over concerns of dwindling crowds and foot traffic.
Only one business, a 625-square-foot cigar store, is currently operating inside the retail spaces despite the city's efforts, and the baseball team may deserve much of the blame.
The Marlins traded away the core of its star-studded lineup over the course of 2012, including struggling star Hanley Ramirez in July. After a disappointing 93-loss season, the team then traded five established players ($180 million in salaries) for mostly prospects last November, fomenting yet more dissatisfaction within the team's fan base. Marlins Park had the lowest attendance for a ballpark's first season in decades.
The firm hired to court retail tenants on behalf of the city noticed potential tenants backing out after the 2012 salary dump, first with the national chain Tilted Kilt, then others. According to the Herald, a leasing agent luring tenants on behalf of the city noticed businesses losing interest in being near the stadium:
A week after the November trade, leasing agent Arthur Stevens of Terranova Corp., the firm hired by the city to lure clients to the ballpark, expressed concern about Marco’s Pizza making good on its letter of intent to sign a lease.
“Marco’s is very concerned about what this will do to future attendance,’’ Stevens, who has since left the firm, wrote to the city’s public facilities director, Henry Torre. “Just thought you should know, I’ll keep you posted.”
It then happened again with another potential tenant:
Two months later, in January, Stevens again expressed concern over a client, this time a national restaurant chain named Firefly.
“While we want to do the deal with the Marlins, their investors are worried about the negative impact that the new Marlins team will have on overall traffic, attendance. One of their investors has contacts within who continues to hear not so good things,” Stevens wrote Henry in an email.
The team has fared no better on the field since its house cleaning (they are currently in last place in the NL East) and their attendance has gotten worse, with game night photos posted in Deadspin as "Empty Stadium Porn."
Because of the neighborhood's mostly residential building stock and inferior game day public transit access, even a successful Marlins team wouldn't necessarily make for a healthy retail draw. City officials are still optimistic with one tenant in place now and two lined up for later this summer. A sit-down restaurant will reportedly open in July, and thanks to the team waiving a clause that prohibits potential vendors from selling food over the counter, a Subway is expected to open later this summer.
Top image courtesy Flickr user JonDigital