Sawgrass Mills evolves

New restaurants, revamped food courts and common area makeover to keep it cutting edge

By Michelle F. Solomon

The world of major malls these days is turning into A-list players and also-rans amid major shifts in the retail landscape as online sales surge.

That’s a good reason for Simon Properties to spare no expense in reinventing Sawgrass Mills, which is a top-tier property. At 2.37 million square feet, it is the largest outlet and bargain retail shopping complex in the United States. It’s the largest mall in Broward County and trails only Aventura Mall, which is 2.7 million square feet, as the largest in the state.

However, competition looms ahead even in the challenged bricks-and-mortar world of retail. Canadian developer Triple Five is planning the more than 5 million-square-foot American Dream Mall along the Florida Turnpike extension at Interstate 75 in northern Miami-Dade County, a bit more than 20 minutes from Sawgrass Mills. American Dream would be the largest mall in the United States and is expected to open in the mid-2020s.

Well before that, the entirety of the original Sawgrass Mills common area will be remodeled by late 2020, just in time for its 30th anniversary. Enhancements will include a bright, modern and ecofriendly interior and exterior redesign, as well as a shiny new 174-room AC Hotel by Marriott. That will further solidify Sawgrass as a full-blown shopping, bar-hopping, stay-and-play destination.

The area near Sawgrass Mills is booming with construction of a 4 million-square-foot master-planned community called Metropica next door. Broward County also hired CallisonRTKL, which has a Coral Gables office, to further develop the 140-acre BB&T Center near Sawgrass Mills with office, residential, hotel and entertainment space.

Sawgrass Mills’ owner is succeeding despite wrenching changes in the retail landscape. Simon (NYSE: SPG) reported retail sales per square foot in the first quarter were $660, up 3.1 percent from the year ago period.

Simon is the dominant mall owner in South Florida, with Coral Square, Dadeland Mall, Florida Keys Outlet Marketplace, Miami International Mall, The Falls and Town Center at Boca Raton.

Part of Simon’s strategy is to keep its malls fresh and attract new tenants.

The original portion of Sawgrass Mills dates to 1990, but it has been expanded several times. The Colonnade Outlets at Sawgrass Mills includes 70 luxury retailers.

Thanks to a surge in sit-down restaurants, Sawgrass Mills has emerged as a dining destination. There is enough variety that you can stay the day and well into the night, says Chris Valle, director of marketing and business development for Sawgrass Mills. As part of the multimillion-dollar renovation, the malls food courts will be turned into food halls by late 2020. But with 15 full-service restaurants, and still growing, Valle says those establishments are part of an evolution that’s been almost three decades in the making.

“In the past few years, we’ve added restaurants that complete the overall experience,” Valle says. “Whatever you’re in the mood for, with the diversity of the restaurant selection, you can have whatever you want at that moment. And that’s the idea.”

Cheesecake Factory and its higher-end sister restaurant, Grand Lux Café, are the staples, as are Rainforest Café, California Pizza Kitchen, Sushigami, local Italian restaurant Villagio, Texas de Brazil, P.F. Chang’s and Johnny Rockets. But with sophisticated, calorie-conscious Seasons 52 having opened in April, Sawgrass Mills has stepped up its game. While further details have yet to be released, Valle hints that there’s room at the table for more.

“We’re certainly not yet close to being maxed out on restaurants here,” he says.

Editor-in-Chief Kevin Gale contributed to this report, which includes information that previously appeared in Lifestyle magazine, SFBW’s sister publication.


Some Sawgrass Mills Dining Highlights

• Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro opened its first Southeast location at Sawgrass in April 2017. There’s plenty of seating indoors, but the best way to experience the ambience is on the outdoor patio at the large, circular high-top table, which features a glowing fire pit in the middle. The weekend brunch menu is one of the signatures of this restaurant, which is based in Washington, D.C.

• Vivé la France in Sunrise with Paul Maison de Qualite. The patisserie is in 20 countries, and Sawgrass has its own “Paul.” The family enterprise has been baking French-style bread in the same tradition for 120 years.

• Zinburger is a wine and gourmet hamburger emporium that puts the “zin” in the name. It offers more than 20 varieties of wine by the glass to complement its certified-Angus beef burgers.

• Seasons 52 is the latest addition to the mall’s restaurant portfolio. The menu changes quarterly, hence “seasons” in its name. The restaurant focuses on freshness and natural ingredients. It boasts 52 selections of wines by the glass.

• Yard House is an upscale casual eatery with an extensive menu, with dishes from street tacos to filet mignon. There are 130 beers on tap.

• Mojitobar: Tropical Eats and Latin Beats. Sawgrass has the second location after the original at Bayside Marketplace. Unlike the Bayside location, it has a food menu that includes Latin favorites like croquetas, arepas and empanadas, plus soy-mango-glazed “pig wings.”

— Michelle F. Solomon

Kevin Gale
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