Yair Levy, founder of Time Century Holdings, is the developer behind the Time Century Jewelry Center, a planned epicenter for Miami’s jewelry and diamond trade that will command an entire square block when it opens in mid-2022.
Levy is sinking $50 million into the renovation of a lackluster shopping mall in downtown Miami to create his 225,000-square-foot hub, which will include both retail and wholesale jewelers and gem dealers. The project’s sheer size and scope will elevate the look and feel of Miami’s trade. And with Time Century’s many planned retail stores, it will likely make the district a more welcoming place for consumers.
The developer has a history, going back to the early 2000s, of revitalizing neglected buildings, primarily in New York City, where he spearheaded renovations of 620 Sixth Ave. and the Sheffield 57 at 322 W. 57th St.
We caught up with Levy, who in a past life was a diamond cutter, to talk about the project.
JCK: What’s the story behind your company developing this jewelry exchange? What motivated this huge project?
Yair Levy: When I began looking for commercial real estate investment opportunities in Miami, one of my first stops was in the jewelry and diamond district in the heart of downtown. I was shocked to find that some of the most expensive jewelry in the country was being sold out of rundown buildings.
I realized that there was a tremendous need for a luxury jewelry center with much higher standards to meet the needs of consumers who are increasingly looking at buying “an experience” rather than just an object. It’s important that the quality of the location and the building match what is being sold inside, because experiential retailing is what differentiates brick-and-mortar from e-commerce.
In developing Time Century, we’re creating the premier destination for luxury jewelry retailers, wholesalers, consumers, and watch enthusiasts in the second-largest jewelry district in the country.
What factors led you to believe that Miami’s jewelry industry needed a building like this?
In the last 10 years, Miami has evolved into a world-class city. People from all over the world are flocking to the Magic City to buy high-end condos and luxury homes, and entire portions of the city have transformed from rundown neighborhoods to trendy districts.
A good example of that transformation is downtown Miami, where the development of high-end condos has attracted thousands of residents to an area that used to be a ghost town after 5 p.m.
While all this change was taking place, the jewelry and diamond district in downtown Miami didn’t keep up with the times. I saw a big opportunity to bring luxury to the neglected jewelry district, and our vision is paying off. We already have nearly 60% of the luxury jewelry retail and wholesale space pre-leased to jewelers from all over the world.
We recently secured a $23.6 million construction loan from City National Bank of Florida to complete the first phase of the project, and we are scheduled to open in mid-2022.
Are you, or have you been, in the jewelry industry?
I have been involved in the jewelry industry directly and indirectly my whole life. As a young man in Israel, I became a diamond cutter to help my family pay bills. That was just the beginning. When I moved to the United States in the early 1970s, I became a successful women’s fashion designer in New York City, selling my designs to the largest department stores in the country.
During those years, I worked closely with jewelers. In the early 1990s, when I transitioned into the real estate sector, I began to buy retail properties. Many of my tenants are in the jewelry industry in New York.
What are the main things Time Century Jewelry Center, once it’s done, will bring to Miami’s jewelry scene?
Time Century Jewelry Center will bring sophistication to the jewelry and diamond district in downtown Miami. Designed by renowned architect Kobi Karp, Time Century will include glass storefronts, soaring ceilings, elegant escalators and elevators, and state-of-the-art amenities, becoming a jewel box in an area that is seeing a rapid transformation.
There is nothing like this in Miami. As customers come from North Miami Avenue or from First Street, they will enter the building and experience it in a three-dimensional fashion. Time Century marks a new beginning for one of the largest jewelry districts in the country that continues to grow in importance. Our domestic and international tenants reflect the new level of sophistication that Time Century is bringing to downtown Miami.
My experience in real estate has been focused on revitalizing neighborhoods by injecting new life in iconic buildings. Time Century Jewelry Center is the former Metro Mall, which shut down several years ago and became an eyesore. Once we complete our $50 million renovation, the building will be the jewel of the jewelry and diamond district in downtown Miami.
Jewelry exchanges tend to look and feel a little dark and business-like, while the center’s renderings make the building look light, airy, and modern. What was your company’s attitude to how the project will look and feel?
Our vision was to expose the block and the concrete and, at the same time, create a crystalline facade to encase what we are promoting and selling, which is jewelry.
Kobi Karp did an excellent job designing Time Century Jewelry Center as a jewelry box that represents the future of jewelry and diamond exchanges. We felt that the building should reflect the same level of sophistication that the jewelers offer, providing an unmatched shopping experience to our future customers.
You are casting around for a jewelry design school to join your tenants. Why do you feel including a school in the building is important?
It will be a win-win-win situation for the students, the school, and our tenants, who often hire young jewelers to train and grow with their businesses. There is a high demand for the next generation of diamond and jewelry designers, and our location is surrounded by colleges, as well as domestic and international students who can be trained to meet that demand.
We are also located in one of the largest jewelry and diamond districts in the United States, giving students access to diamond and jewelry apprenticeship opportunities and other hands-on experience. The downtown offers the right environment for a jewelry design school to attract and develop talent.
How much of the center’s tenancy will be retail jewelers that the public can shop?
We will have close to 150 stores for the public to come and shop. The jewelry center will boast four floors of luxury jewelry retail and wholesale space as well as four additional floors of offices. A large three-story atrium with newly designed escalators and computerized directories will seamlessly direct customers throughout all levels. Most tenants will have unobstructed signage viewable from the main floor. We will have close to an even amount of retail and wholesale jewelers.
What are some of the most interesting or notable tenants coming into the building?
Many interesting and high-profile tenants have signed leases with us already.… At the moment, we are unable to name names, but we are happy to announce that we recently signed a lease with Istanbul-based Markaled. The luxury jewelry store will occupy 1,500 square feet and plans to open in the second quarter of 2022.
Markaled has served luxury shoppers across Europe for over a decade, and the location in Time Century will mark the company’s entrance to the United States. We also have several tenants from Colombia and Saudi Arabia. A significant number of tenants are coming from New York, and we are in discussions with jewelers from China and the U.K.
How do you see the project shaping or defining Miami’s jewelry trade?
Time Century is disrupting the status quo in Miami’s jewelry and diamond district. Until now, there was no competition to challenge other landlords to reinvest in their properties to bring sophistication, class, and style to their buildings. Time Century will reenergize this area and make jewelers reconsider the look and feel of their space. They are already wondering why they are having to pay higher rents somewhere else for rundown spaces when they could be paying less to be in a state-of-the-art building.
Top: A rendering of the entrance to the Time Century Jewelry Center in Miami (all photos courtesy of Time Century Holdings)
Follow Emili Vesilind on Instagram: @emilivesilindFollow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Twitter: @jckmagazine
Follow JCK on Facebook: @jckmagazine