South Miami: Voters approve amendment making revamp of Shops at Sunset Place easier

A change in South Miami’s city charter could decide the fate of a proposed revamp of the Shops at Sunset Place.

Voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure amending the city’s charter so that a four-fifths vote of the commission, rather than a unanimous vote, would be sufficient to relax the land use code in a downtown district that includes the mall. With all precincts reporting, 63 percent of people who cast ballots voted yes.

The referendum does not explicitly mention the Shops at Sunset Place, instead referring to the rezoning of a newly formed district called the Commercial Core. But the district was set up specifically for that mall.

The makeover of the mall would demolish a portion along U.S. 1 and add an 18-story hotel, apartment building and pedestrian plaza. In March, the refurbishment of the mall was defeated by a lone no vote on the commission. The charter amendment, proposed as a result of that vote, changes the requirement to a four-fifths vote instead of the unanimous vote that is required today.

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The site of the Shops at Sunset Place — at the intersection of South Dixie Highway and West 57th Avenue — has seen more than three decades of stagnation. A retail and office complex with a movie theater called The Bakery Centre first opened there in 1986. It was demolished 10 years later, and Sunset Place was built in 1999 by Simon Properties.

In 2015, Federal Realty Investment Trust, the same company that bought CocoWalk in Coconut Grove, purchased Sunset Place with co-owners Grass River Property and the Comras Co. for $110 million.

The mall is directly across the street from the South Miami Metrorail station and features a movie theater, bowling alley, arcade and shops. But it has not seen the foot traffic it needs to thrive.

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