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 Boston-based 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 the 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 was designed by Atlanta's Joe Amisano. The facility would house approximately 912,000 square feet of retail and include a 17-story luxury hotel and 9-level -2,000-space- parking garage.

The shopping mall portion of the complex consisted of two retail levels; the Lower Mall and Upper Mall. These were situated on top of a Ground Level parking deck. The 5-level Jordan Marsh, which had been expanded by 37,000 square feet, now encompassed 362,000.

"Jordan's" was joined by a 3-level (200,000 square foot) J.C. Penney. The first operational newly-built store, the OMNI Penney's was dedicated on February 2, 1977. The American Multi-Cinema Omni 6 , on the Upper Mall, showed its first features on March 23rd. On June 12, the 556-room Omni Hotel opened for business.

At the official dedication of OMNI INTERNATIONAL MALL, held on July 2, 1977, 120 stores and services were in operation. There would eventually be 165. The were several themed areas within the mall.

Renaissance Place, on the Upper Mall, included boutique-type stores such as Beadspreadery, Lollipops & Love, Oriental Gifts International, Telephones Unlimited and Side-By-Side. Plaza Versailles, directly below, was the haute couture section of the shopping hub. Among its eleven upscale tenants were Emilio Pucci, Lanvin Boutique and Givenchy.

The Treasure Island Amusement Center, on the Lower Mall, opened in September 1977. It featured a Gypsy fortune teller, "old west" style photo shop, dodgem cars track and two-tier carousel, which had been imported from Italy. North of the Amusement Center was Treasure Island Shops. This twenty-six-store section was done in a "Barbary Coast" motif.

A scaled-down version of The World of Sid & Marty Kroft, an indoor theme park at the Atlanta OMNI INTERNATIONAL, 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 first major change at Miami's OMNI mall took place in the mid-1980s. The American Multi-Cinema Omni 4 was installed in vacant Upper Mall space. The multiplex showed its first features on August 30, 1985.  With its completion, both motion picture venues were operated collectively as the AMC Omni 10.

Catering predominantly to South American tourists, Miami's OMNI INTERNATIONAL MALL was initially successful. However, the complex fell on hard times, primarily due to competition from BAYSIDE MARKETPLACE (1987) {.7 mile south}. Soon, the high-end designer boutiques at the OMNI had been replaced by standard mall tenants such as Limited Express, Contempo Casuals and The Gap.

A mall-wide renovation was performed in 1987 and '88. The 12-bay Treats Food Court was installed in the former Treasure Island Shops area and opened for business in May 1987. Treats tenants included Chinese Combo King, Hot Dogs & More, Seafood USA, Taco Viva and the Carousel Snack Bar. As part of the renovation, the Italian Carousel was refurbished.

A second remodeling, completed in June 1990, reconfigured area next to Jordan Marsh as the South Shopping Court. New escalators, mosaic tiles, a waterfall and glass dome ceiling were installed. Unfortunately, this revitalization was stymied by the demise of Jordan Marsh.

Burdines rebranded the OMNI Jordan Marsh store on October 20th 1991. It closed for good on May 31, 1992. J.C. Penney, unwilling to abide by a hefty rent increase, shuttered their store on December 31, 1998. The multiplex cinema showed its final features in May 1999.

By late 1999, only three OMNI stores were still in business; Baron's men's wear, Oaktree and Radio Shack. The entire shopping mall portion of the complex was shuttered on 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 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. By this time, the official name of the structure had morphed to OMNI CENTER.

In February 2002, the Miami International University of Art & Design opened in the first floor of the Jordan Marsh 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).

One of the latest events in the ever-evolving OMNI story concerned 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 CENTER 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. This initiative was unsuccessful and was eventually abandoned.

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