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Construction is heating up at the $4 billion Miami Worldcenter, with nearly two-thirds of the 300,000 square feet in the retail pipeline breaking ground. The shops and restaurants eventually will serve hundreds of residents and overnight visitors at the sprawling downtown development.

The 27-acre project along NE 1st Ave. is one of the largest mixed-use projects being built in the United States.

The developer, Miami Worldcenter Associates, said it is adding 50,000 square feet of retail space and two public parking garages to the project. It previously had started construction on close to 150,000 square feet of shops and restaurants. Plans call for an additional 100,000 square feet of retail space, though construction and leasing details have not yet been disclosed.

Worldcenter developers originally wanted to have an indoor mall anchored by Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s but scrapped those plans in favor of street-level experiential retail amid an industry shift brought about by online shopping.

“That’s a great move,” said Christos Costandinides, a market economist with CoStar Market Analytics. “That’s where retail is headed, toward the experience. If you’re trying to create a classic mall, you will have a problem.”

Caoba, a 444-unit apartment tower, opened in January, while Luma, a 434-unit rental, has broken ground. The 60-story Paramount condo, with about 85% of the 569 units pre-sold, is due to be complete in June, the project developer said.

The amount of retail already underway at Worldcenter “reflects the strong feedback we’ve received from brands from around the world and across South Florida,” Nitin Motwani, general partner for the developer, said in a statement.

No tenants have been announced, but leasing agent Michael Comras told CoStar News last month that the project likely will have a movie theater, experiential retailers and “clubstaurants,” establishments that are restaurants during the day and clubs at night.

Miami retail vacancies have increased in recent years due to the level of construction in the market, according to the latest report from CoStar Market Analytics. Development is projected to stay elevated in the next few years, potentially causing the vacancy rate to eclipse the historical average.

Aside from the remaining 100,000 square feet of retail, Worldcenter is expected to have an office tower of up to 500,000 square feet, a 348-room CitizenM hotel and a 1,700-room Marriott Marquis hotel and expo center. Some of those projects are due to be finished by the end of 2020, but completion dates for the planned office building and the Marriott Marquis have not yet been announced.

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