Stephen Bittel’s dedication to improving his home city of Miami, Florida has never faltered, even in the face of a global pandemic. Having founded his company at the age of just 24, he chose the name Terranova because of its Latin translation, “new world.” COVID-19 has resulted in unprecedented change that has certainly left a new world in its place. Nevertheless, Stephen Bittel and his team at Terranova are finding new and exciting ways to propel Miami forward using the economic platform he knows best: commercial real estate. With the holidays fast approaching, Bittel saw one such opportunity in his properties on Lincoln Road.
The history between Bittel and Lincoln Road dates back to 2002, when he first started chasing deals on the street. He saw opportunity in the vibrant combination of local customers and tenants. It wasn’t until after the economic crisis in 2007 that Bittel and his team at Terranova Corp., along with an institutional partner, scored two of the best street corners on Lincoln in a $52 million deal in late 2010. Bittel had people from across the country telling him he was crazy for taking such a huge risk, but Bittel moved forward anyway with his plan to move the rent from $65 dollars per square foot to $130 and replace the Lincoln Lane building with a new three-story retail space. As a result of this purchase, he was able to take another risk by buying three more buildings for $139million. The two buys combine to almost thirty percent of the retail space on Lincoln Road.
A little over three years later, the six-property portfolio sold for $342million in a deal that’s considered one of the largest property sales ever in South Florida. The deal resulted in a profit of $151million for Terranova and their partner, with Terranova still serving as a managing member and continuing to lease and develop the properties for the new investor group. These multi-million dollar deals attracted the attention of city leaders, leading to a community focused approach in plans to revitalize the street. To Bittel, the growth of streets like Lincoln Road is providing meeting places for human interaction in a world that is increasingly lived behind a screen.
Now, with a pandemic that encourages social distancing, Bittel’s intention has been challenged in ways he previously thought not possible. Previous to this year’s unforeseeable changes, Bittel has always excelled in proving the adaptability of his company to shape shift successfully in the face of market changes. Since starting his company, the world has dramatically changed. The rise of e-commerce and the ever-changing trends of one of America’s most popular cities have been two such changes that Bittel capitalized on for growth rather than struggle, always driven by his purpose of helping his community thrive. This is mirrored in Bittel’s active role in joining property owners up and down Lincoln Road into a property owner’s association that ultimately transitioned into a Business Improvement District.
Currently, The Lincoln Road BID is working to help small businesses and fill a growing number of retail vacancies by launching a pre-holiday pop-up program. With the goal of keeping the street as occupied as possible, Bittel is charging less for pop-ups than the current asking rates. His lower asking rate of $80 per square foot for short-term leases versus $250 per square foot for annual contracts predicates a change that falls in line with his past history of listening to emerging consumer trends in order to help his community evolve and thrive. “All over the world, restaurant and retail concepts have been rationalizing their footprints and closing less profitable stores. With that transition, a lot of people in the retail industry have lost their jobs. This gives people the change to test ideas and gets people back to work…Temporary occupancy is going to be part of our future for a long time,” Bittel said. Fortunately, Lincoln Road District is heavily centered around outdoor experiences – experiences that adapt well to the paradoxical nature of the current need to socially distance and boost the economy.
Retailers can submit an application here for a 90-day lease. Tim Schmand, BID executive director, reviews applications and connects applicants with landlords.