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Metropica project would be nearly twice as big as Sawgrass Mills

It's like nothing that has ever been built in South Florida.

Known as Metropica, the "city within a city" would have:

•More than 2,000 condos

•300 townhomes

•Enough commercial space to hold 11 Wal-Marts.

The massive, $1.5 billion project — nearly double the size of the neighboring Sawgrass Mills mall — would create the cornerstone of Broward County's new "Western Downtown."

Construction could start as soon as January, said Michael Moskowitz, an attorney for Metropica developer Joseph Kavana, of Miami.

It will take about 10 years and 5,000 construction workers to build the mammoth development.

Local real estate experts were stunned by the sheer size of the project.

"My mouth has dropped," said Jack McCabe, a real estate analyst in Deerfield Beach. "[The developer is] talking about 2,000 more condos in Sunrise and these aren't even waterfront."

In Broward County alone, 4,000 condo units are either under construction or have been announced for near future development, McCabe said.

"[The developer is] talking about 50 percent more than that in just one project," McCabe said. "I'm surprised as hell. It's almost like he wants to build a city within a city. With over 2,300 units, there would be 5,000 people living there."

Jonathan Kingsley, an executive with the commercial real estate services firm JLL in Boca Raton, can think of no other project like it in South Florida.

"It's an extremely ambitious concept," Kingsley said. "There was a mixed-use project announced in Aventura, but not to this scale."

This week, Broward commissioners gave the developer permission to build on an additional 9 acres of wetlands on the 50-acre parcel.

In return, the developer will dedicate $1 million to create 20 acres of wetlands at Long Key Nature Center in Davie. And it will give them more space to build, so the condo towers will not have to be as tall as anticipated.

Once built, Metropica would generate an estimated $22 million a year in taxes, with $5 million going to Broward County, Moskowitz said. The rest would go to the city of Sunrise, the school district and other taxing authorities.

"This is a phenomenal project that's going to make that western part of Broward a major retail center and residential area," Moskowitz said. "It fits in perfectly with the mall that's already there. In terms of building, the real estate downturn is gone. Interest rates remain low. And the need for new housing is still high."

Like many projects, Metropica was delayed by the Great Recession, Moskowitz said.

"For all the time we've waited, this is the perfect time for them to hit the ground running and build what they've wanted to build for the past 15, 20 years," Sunrise Commissioner Joey Scuotto said. "I'm happy it's finally coming. It's going to be a nice draw. It's all good. They want to build condos, office space, restaurants and cafes."

Kavana, who was out of the country and could not be reached for comment, will soon meet with Sunrise officials to finalize plans for the project, Moskowitz said.

"Just because he has approval for the maximum doesn't mean he'll build that," Moskowitz said in an interview. "Their goal is to break ground on the first phase of development in January 2015."

County Commissioner Martin Kiar, who represents the area, said officials in neighboring Plantation have told him they don't want another Tao, the 26-story twin condo towers in Sunrise east of the mall.

"Plantation residents have been telling me they don't want another eyesore like Tao," Kiar said. "That's why it was important to me to make sure they build lower buildings. And now they have more land to build on because we released the 9 acres."

Kavana is selling a 7-acre parcel on the west side of Northwest 136th Avenue to a developer who has plans to build Portico, a cluster of five- and six-story apartment buildings with a total of 417 units.

The Portico project may break ground as soon as August and open within two years, said Maria Sanchez, development director for the Richman Group of Florida in West Palm Beach.

Kavana, founder and CEO of K Group Holdings Inc., has owned the Metropica parcel since 1994.

The Uruguay-born developer has been involved in several international real estate projects, including YOO Punta del Este in Uruguay and YOO Nordelta in Buenos Aires.

Kavana has lived in Miami since 1980 and was involved in several local projects, including Jacaranda West in Plantation and Chapel Trail in Pembroke Pines.

His latest venture has been in the making for 20 years, his attorney said.

"Once it's done, if it does to come to fruition, it would create a big economic boon for our community," Kiar said. "I'm excited about this project. We've been working on this for so long."

sbryan@tribune.com or 954-356-4554

Metropica*

Size: An estimated 4 million square feet, nearly double the size of Sawgrass Mills

Height: Up to 18 stories

Condo units: 2,083

Townhouse units: 300

Office space: 785,000 square feet (roughly the size of 7.3 Walmart stoes)

Retail space: 485,000 square feet (roughly the size of 4.5 Walmart stores)

*Numbers are based on initial plans

Source: Sunrise and Broward County

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