Three Hispanics leaders are at the helm of Plaza del Sol, the Latin Village, an ambitious project that is transforming the old Osceola Square Mall in Kissimmee into a vibrant community asset.
Backed by Toronto’s Bayshore Capital, developer Arturo Adonai, mall director Suzanna Fernández and architect Benny Gaxiola, are turning the 400,000-square-foot property in U.S. Highway into an interactive shopping experience with Latinos at heart.
“Plaza del Sol is the Central Florida spot where Latino entrepreneurs, service providers, community partners and families converge,” said Adonai. “We are embracing the fact that Hispanics are now more than 50 percent of Kissimmee’s residents. We want a mall that is reflective of their culture that also embraces all of the diversity of this region.”
It is a promise this management team is taking seriously. Plaza del Sol focuses on tenants as much as it does on its visitors and shoppers. A key component to the mall’s transformation is a unique small-store platform (or micro stores) that enables entrepreneurs to grow their business in a cost-effective way. Rent and utilities start at $500 a month for a 10’ x 10’ space that can showcase anything from apparel, to services, to baked goods and much more. Short-term leases are available.
About 100 of these stores will populate the mall area called El Mercado, in which architect Gaxiola recreated the open-air markets and plazas so popular throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
“This space is a bridge between the past and the present, between our roots and the opportunities of this country,” Gaxiola said. “It is also a place that is warm, friendly and inclusive, where people from all backgrounds are welcome.”
The walls of the Mercado are painted in a pastel palette reminiscent that evokes the Spanish settlements in the New World. Architectural details like balconies, railing and faux brick complete the look. Nearby, a stage offers musicians, celebrities, and cultural and educational organizations a place from which to reach their audiences week after week.
“We strive to be more than a place to shop,” Fernández said. “We want for Plaza del Sol to be a place where families can come and socialize, learn something new, or have a good time in a safe environment. We also want to be the place where hard-working entrepreneurs can realize their dreams of financial independence.”
Fernández knows firsthand that success doesn’t happen within a vacuum. The recently appointed mall director is the daughter of Dominican immigrants who arrived to the U.S. with nothing and built a successful food distribution business. She oversees an important element in Plaza del Sol’s winning formula: tenant support.
“Being able to offer guidance to entrepreneurs is one of the things that excite me most about Plaza del Sol,” Fernández said. “We offer our tenants business education seminars, marketing tools and other forms of support because we can only succeed if they succeed.”
In addition to the stores at El Mercado, the mall is home to Burlington Coat Factory, Ross Dress for Less, Fallas Discount Stores, Foot Locker and Planet Fitness. Florida Technical College, Kissimmee, is also in this mix. G-Mart Grocers, a supermarket chain that specializes on international food, is on its way.
Plaza del Sol Grand Opening is June 21 from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
By: Jeannette Rivera-Lyles for Visión Magazine