OMNI INTERNATIONAL MALL
Biscayne Boulevard / US 1 and Northeast 15th Street
Miami, Florida

In the mid-1950s, New York City's Allied Stores created a Sunshine State division of their Jordan Marsh chain. The first Jordan Marsh of Florida, a 3-level (195,000 square foot) structure, was built at Biscayne Boulevard and NE 15th Street, in the northern environs of downtown Miami.

The store was dedicated on February 6, 1956. Upon its grand opening, company executives realized that the building was too small. A 3 million dollar expansion, adding 4th and 5th levels, was dedicated December 1, 1958. This enlarged said store to 325,000 square feet.

Fast forward to the year 1975. Miami's Tibor Hollo joins with Atlanta's Maurice Alpert and his International City Corporation. They break ground for a 76 million dollar "megastructure", to be built onto the north side of the existing Jordan Marsh.

Occupying an 11.2 acre site created from the joining of three city blocks, the OMNI INTERNATIONAL complex would encompass 875,000 square feet of retail and include a 20-story, 556-room, Omni Hotel and 9-level parking garage.

The core complex featured 2 retail levels;, the Lower Mall and Upper Mall. These were situated on top of a ground level parking deck. The 5-level (325,000 square foot) Jordan Marsh, on the mall's south end, was joined by a 3-level (200,000 square foot) J.C. Penney, which anchored the north.

At the official dedication of OMNI INTERNATIONAL MALL, held February 2, 1977, one hundred and twenty stores were in operation. There would eventually be one hundred and sixty-five, within the shopping hub's various themed areas.

Treasure Island, on the Lower Mall, featured a Gypsy fortune teller, "old west" style photo shop, dodgem cars track, two-tier carousel (imported from Italy) and a video game arcade.

The Village Shops section included "Q" Records, Mother's Records, Radio Shack, Battaglia Exquisite Footwear, Casual Corner, B. Dalton Bookseller, Waldenbooks, Swim 'n Sport, Lansons men's wear, Morgan Music, Guayansamin Gallery, Bally of Switzerland, Lindy's Deli, Cozzoli's Pizza and Oriental Gifts. The piece de resistance of the OMNI complex was its upscale designer boutiques Hermes, Emilio Pucci, Givenchy and House of Lanvin.

The American Multi-Cinema Omni 6 showed its first features March 23, 1977. This operation was expanded, with the AMC Omni 4, in 1985. This new multiplex was located across the mallway from the Omni 6.  With its completion, the venues were operated collectively as the AMC Omni 10.

A scaled-down version of The World of Sid & Marty Kroft, an indoor theme park at the Atlanta OMNI INTERNATIONAL (1976), had also been proposed for Miami's OMNI. This was abandoned after the closing of the Atlanta operation after only 4 months in business.

The final stage of Miami's OMNI endeavor, the Omni Hotel, opened for business in June 1977. Catering to South American tourists, OMNI INTERNATIONAL MALL was initially successful. However, the complex soon fell on hard times, due to competition from BAYSIDE MARKETPLACE (1987) {.7 mile south}. Soon, the high-end designer boutiques at the OMNI were replaced by tenants such as a dollar store.

A renovation, concluded in September 1988, created The Ball Park Food Court and three larger apparel stores out of the shuttered Treasure Island area. A remarketing, done in conjunction with the remodeling, failed to improve the fortunes of the OMNI mall.

A second remodeling, completed in June 1990, reconstructed area adjacent to Jordan Marsh as the South Shopping Court. New escalators, mosaic tiles, a waterfall and glass dome ceiling were installed. This revitalization was hindered by the shuttering of Jordan Marsh, in September 1991.

The store soon re-opened as a Burdines. This closed May 31, 1992. Inexplicably, the owners of the struggling shopping complex decided not to renew the lease of J.C. Penney, which ended up closing in December 1998. The multiplex cinema shut down in May 1999.

By late 1999, only three stores were still in business; Baron's men's wear, Oaktree and Radio Shack. The entire shopping mall portion of the complex was shuttered December 31, 1999. Plans for a reconfiguration into a telecom facility fell through in October 2000. The hotel, which had gone through incarnations as an Omni, Crown Plaza, Wyndham, Renaissance and Radisson, persevered.

In November 2000, New York City-based Argent Ventures acquired the OMNI INTERNATIONAL complex. An additional piece of property, as well as the hotel, was secured in May 2005, giving Argent full ownership of the entire mega-block.

In February 2002, the Miami International University of Art & Design opened in the first floor of the Jordan Marsh / Burdines building. In the fall of 2007, a 43 million dollar renovation of the four upper floors commenced.

This section, dubbed OMNI OFFICES, was completed in January 2010. Phase 2 of the project was to reconfigure the vacant J.C. Penney structure, adding a fourth level. It would became OMNI SHOPS, a "vertical mall". Unfortunately, this project never came to fruition. In the meantime, the Omni Hotel was refurbished. It was now operating as the Hilton Miami Downtown (its sixth incarnation).

The latest wrinkle in the ever-evolving OMNI story concerns a September 2011 transaction in which the mortgage was purchased by Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's Genting Group. They had recently acquired a 14 acre parcel directly south of the OMNI. The plan was to build a hotel and Las Vegas-style casino complex, to be known as Resorts World Miami. This would be incorporated with the OMNI MALL.

The sticking point was that state statutes would have to be amended, allowing gambling on land other than Native American reservation property. The Genting Group lobbied for years in Tallahassee, trying to get laws changed. Thus far, this endeavor has not been successful.

Sources:

The Miami News
The Miami Herald
www.bizjournals.com
Impressions of E. Morgan, Miami-Dade resident, 1957-2006
http://www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.movie-theatre.org / Mike Rivest
"Omni International Mall of Miami" article on Wikipedia
http://millerconstructioncompany.com
www.theomnioffices.com