VERO BEACH — After months of construction and the loss its anchor restaurant, what was once the ModernAge Building located at the east end of Miracle Mile is open for business with an eye for attracting the modern Vero Beach woman.
Renamed Modern One, the building is nearly at full occupancy with offices on the second floor and a collection of ground level stores many of which cater to the purchasing power of women. “The concept is partly based on the tenant mix,” said 32-year-old developer Brian Curley. “We have two dress shops (The Beach Shop and Talulah’s Boutique); we have a woman’s salon (Elle 7 Twenty Salon) and a chocolate shop (Faith, Hope and Chocolate).”
On the second floor Curley has attracted the law firm of Rossway, Moore and Taylor and the Northwestern Mutual financial advisory firm to take up all the available office space. Aside from the stores already mentioned, the property will house a Curves, Vero Beach Dry Cleaners, Cork (a wine bar), and the anchor tenant, BrewGrrs, a burgers and beer restaurant.
With the exception of the restaurant and wine bar, which are aiming for September openings, all the retail shops should be open or will be opening in the coming week.
“On the retail level we wanted to put together businesses that would fit well with one another,” Curley said. “That was always our idea and some of our early people dictated where we were going. Gina Battle at Hope, Faith and Chocolate was one of the first people we talked to and Nikolett Connelly owns the salon and she was another of the first people we sat down with. So that was the direction we started trending.”
In these difficult economic times, Curley has just one vacancy left, a 677-square-foot retail area.
“I am ecstatic,” he said. “I was pretty worried there for a while; it’s been so hard for people to get business loans. A lot of restaurants have been closing and with the layoffs places have been experiencing, not a lot of people are expanding right now.
“But the building, luckily, because of its location and visibility, was able to attract some good longstanding businesses and some new ones as well. We’ve got a good mixture of both startup and those with a long history.”
The developer said he had been advised by one of his early consultants to raze the old ModernAge furniture store and start from scratch, but out of respect of the iconic building, he decided to go with what is called adaptive re-use. He kept the curved aspect of the building, but did away with the distinctive A-frame in favor of a more pedestrian-friendly design.
“I’m pleased with how it turned out,” Curley said. “I think we were able to re-adapt it and keep some of the features of the original building, but make it more functional in this environment. I had been by it many, many times, it was quite visible at the end of the Miracle Mile. The visibility, the location, despite the fact the building was kind of awkward and obsolete, was what attracted us. We were able to readapt it as best we could and I think it has worked out pretty well.”
And while the shops hope to attract the women of Vero Beach from both sides of the Barber Street Bridge, it is not without its offerings for the men.
BrewGrrs will feature a collection of fresh-made burgers and dozens of domestic and international draft and bottled beers, all reasonably priced.
The location originally was to be taken over by the owners of Felix’s Place, a small Cuban restaurant on 43rd Avenue. But when they backed out, Brewgrrs, stepped in, ending a long search for owner Robert Coburn.
“Brewgrrs is a fantastic concept,” Curley said. “I am sure it is going to be a big success. I envision there being more than one Brewgrrs.”
The 3,600-square-foot bar/restaurant has already begun hiring staff for the hoped-for September opening.
“I thought they needed a price conscious restaurant rather than one with white tablecloths,” said Billy Moss, who helped broker the deal. “I really did this so I would have a place to hang out, I love football and I love hamburgers.”
Coburn said he has already heard from local beer connoisseurs and they are anxiously awaiting the opening. As with the other tenants, Coburn pointed to the central location just off the barrier island, but easily accessible by mainland residents as a key to his site selection. He had been looking for just the right spot for more than two years.
“We can’t wait to represent Modern One,” Coburn said. “Brian Curley has been great to deal with and we are bringing a concept that Vero Beach has never seen before.”
“So far so good,” said Karin Bracken of Talulah’s Boutique. “There have been some quiet days, but we have had a lot of people come in who were curious to see what the property looked like.”
For Martin Bireley, who is helping run the family-owned Beach Shop, the location provided an opportunity to acquaint their beachside store to a wider audience.
“We felt there was a Vero Beach customer that doesn’t cross the bridge and we had been looking around for location in the Miracle Mile area for six or eight months,” said Bireley, who added the mainland store will be in addition to their beachside operation. “Brian was very aggressive and amenable to anything we wanted to do. We thought it was a great opportunity and a great space to do something a little bit different. This will have more of a ’boutiquey’ feel than our beachside location.”
Location and space was what attracted the principals at Rossway, Moore and Taylor to leave their barrier island property in favor of Miracle Mile.
“Many of our clients live on the barrier island,” said partner Bradley Rossway. “We thought this was the best location for our clients and our staff in one of the best parts of Vero Beach. The timing was fortunate, in that the firm needed more space and with the need to continue to expand, we wanted space to grow into that we could build out exactly as we wanted it.”
Curley, who lives in the Central Beach area, spent $ 4.1 million to buy the property, but will not reveal what was spent to create the courtyard/ pedestrian area , 10,700-square-feet of retail area, 10,000-square-feet of office space, and the 4,250-square-feet for the restaurant and wine bar.
But for all the change, he has a sense of the history of the ModernAge building and what the landmark old building means to some in Vero’s old guard.
“I always thought it was cool, I thought it was a neat place,” he said. “You just don’t see curved buildings like that.”
And, he says, it is so far so good in his role as manager of the now thriving Modern One.
“We are really excited, I am very, very pleased with the people I have found,” he said. “They get along really well. So far it has been a great experience. I am looking forward to having a little more time for golf when the restaurant finally opens.”