Friday, August 31, 2012

The Village at Merrick Park: A Rose By Any Other Name...

Opened in 2002, this trendy, open-air lifestyle center in Coral Gables, Florida, derives its name from George Merrick, founder of City Beautiful back in the 1920s. Operated by General Growth Properties, the Village at Merrick Park  is a unique mall that features over 100 retail stores and boutiques, nine dining establishments, and three anchor stores: Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Equinox Fitness and Spa. 

merrick park

If you are currently looking for this prime piece of Coral Gables real estate on the map, you will find it just where it is supposed to be, but if you search for it in the next few months, you might have some trouble. A name change is in order to Merrick Shops. The purpose of the re-branding is to clarify in the minds of all visitors whether this upscale hub is or is not a shopping center.

The name change was approved earlier this month by the Coral Gables City Commission, and it will be implemented later this year or in early 2013. According to Kerem Kayser, senior general manager: “The Village of Merrick Park name really didn’t resonate with shoppers. We believe it caused a lot of confusion... We wanted our name to distinctly represent that we are an exclusive shopping destination. 

Altering the name serendipitously coincides with the up-and-coming tenth anniversary of Merrick Park. It is hoped that marketing under the new moniker will propel a higher profile within the retail landscape of Miami-Dade. Store purchases and sales of Coral Gables real estate are at their highest level per square foot in the entire history of the mall, even exceeding the record before the recession, which was set back in 2007.  Still, the owner of the mall sees more untapped potential for monetary success. 

The name change will take a while because the city of Coral Gables must approve it. One of the things holding up progress is the mall owner’s desire for more visibility in the form of signs that are much bigger and somewhat bolder than those that are already there.

merrick park condos

Kayser admits that the new name and additional marketing are only part of the picture for this prime Coral Gables real estate and that many other changes are expected over the course of the next year. Leases are up for renewal and about half of the original tenants have either signed or are in the process of doing so. In addition, there are five new tenants: J.Crew, Agent Provocateur, Carlo Pazolini, Onda de Mar and Pedini Miami.

As is with most things in life, timing is an important issue. The name change alone will do nothing for Merrick Park unless it is buttressed with an aggressive advertising campaign. That is what truly creates re-branding, whether the subject is Coral Gables real estate or another amusement park.

Some retailers aren’t so sure that the name change will affect retail traffic, as the third floor, which had been occupied by Border’s Book store, has been vacant since last year. Total occupancy remains just over 90 percent.

Time will tell for Merrick Park or should we say…Shops?

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