Every year, when families in other states plan where they want to spend their vacations, they tend to take into consideration what an area has to offer besides the beach. After all, all their time can't be spent on the sand and in the water.
Other considerations might include favorite restaurants, boating, fishing, cinemas, and, shopping.
Twenty-two years ago developer Keith Howard built the first phase of Silver Sands Outlets Factory Stores with 20 stores on a strip of land on the north side of U.S. Highway 98W in Miramar Beach, a position between Destin and Santa Rosa Beach, and easily accessible.
In those early years, the Howard Group team worked to get leasing and nationally known tenants to recognize them, as well as locals.
"We were the first destination of this kind in northwest Florida, and the first section was the forerunner of everything you see today. We were the forerunner of bringing designer stores here," said Myra Williams, who joined the Howard Group in 1995.
These days, recognition is not difficult.
The first anchor store outlet was Nautica, which is still a part of what is now known as the Premier Outlet Stores, and is still located in its original position in the Phase I section on the far east end.
The mall has expanded seven times.
Phase II is west of Phase I and houses, among other names, Brooks Brothers.
In 1995, Phase III was opened with Gap.
In 1996, the Morgan Entertainment Center opened where Off Saks 5th Avenue is now.
Tommy Hilfiger and Nike headed the next parcels, and then Loft.
Out parcels were built next, which are the restaurants in front, and include Panera Bread, Carrabba's, and Cheeseburger in Paradise.
Today, Silver Sands Premier Outlet Mall is home to 110 stores, and is one of the largest in the nation.
"I have seen it grow through the years and continue to seek the most sought-after outlet stores in the industry," said Williams. "There is a constant remixing of the stores offered to bring the ones shoppers want."
The phrase, “if you build it they will come” has certainly proven true as the mall sees 7 million shoppers annually.
The mall is currently is built-out at 465,000 square feet, and has almost 100 percent occupancy. But the original plans offer the potential for 750,000 square feet.
Williams said the team is working on the design and permitting to continue building and plans are being finalized. Expansion would be to the north of existing buildings.
Before any more sections are opened, however, Williams said they want to improve the internal flow of circulating traffic on the property.
They are also working with the department of transportation to speed up the widening of U.S. Highway 98, which will be important to the mall.
Expansion plans for perfecting vehicular traffic flow, enhanced landscaping, and additional designer stores.
Howard Group coordinated internal circulation plans with that of FDOT to ensure comparability with the widening of Highway 98.
Recent information from FDOT per Senate President Don Gaetz indicates a 2018 start if funding is available.
Expansion plans for Silver Sands are subject to change and based on the feasibility of the marketplace and always a work in progress. The commencement date is to be determined, said Williams.