A long-dormant, 65-acre project that will bring high-rise condos and upscale retail to suburban Sunrise is set to break ground this summer.
The first phase of the mixed-use project, scheduled to open in early 2017, will include a 263-unit residential tower with views of the Everglades and a 480,000-square-foot mall anchored by the luxury cinema iPic Theaters, as well as two hotels, an apartment building and office space. It will be centered around a 21-acre park.
Completing the massive development, called Metropica, could cost more than $1 billion.
“We’re creating a downtown for southwest Broward,” said developer Joseph Kavana. The project’s neighbors include the 350-store Sawgrass Mills mall and the BB&T Center arena.
West Broward is affluent but doesn’t have much in the way of shopping or nightlife for locals, Kavana said. “Sawgrass Mills is more for the tourists,” he said. “We’re creating something for the people who live here.”
Kavana said the shops will be upscale but not luxury, comparing his vision to the Aventura Mall. The project will also include service-oriented retail for locals and a supermarket.
Kavana, CEO of K Group Holdings International Development, has owned the property since 1995. A decade ago, when he first sought to develop the land, the economy went belly up. Now, with real estate booming, Kavana envisions building a total of eight towers with 1,800 residential units. The first tower will be 28 stories. (The height of the others has not yet been determined.)
The luxury buildings will include the amenities that have become standard at high-end condo projects in South Florida — a spa, a resort-style pool, pet grooming center, concierge service — but at a lower price than buyers can find on the water.
The average price for Metropica condos will be between $375 and $425 per square foot, said Fernando de Nuñez of One Sotheby’s International Realty, which is handling sales, although the priciest units will go for more than $1 million. The least expensive one-bedroom will cost $290,000.
Metropica’s square-foot prices compare favorably to those for new construction on the beaches and Biscayne Bay. In Miami Beach, the average price is $869; on Brickell its $618, and $552 in Edgewater, north of the Omni.
“This will be a tall, modern building for young people,” de Nuñez said. “There’s nothing new like it in the area. But we know there’s a lot of demand in West Broward from single people, students and young couples who work in the area but don’t necessarily want a house.”
About 40 percent of units in the first tower have sold, mainly to foreign buyers, said de Nuñez. Most are from Latin America.
“Some of the international buyers acquiring these properties intend to lease them out,” he said.
The project’s residential components are being developed with Scott Leventhal and the Trillist Companies.
Sunrise is particularly attractive because of the companies with large offices there, including American Express, New York Life, Coventry Health Care, HBO Latin America and the Stiles Corporation. Metropica also sits at the confluence of three major roads: the Sawgrass Expressway, I-75 and the Florida Turnpike.
Hamid Hashemi, CEO of the luxury cinema and restaurant combo iPic Theaters, said Metropica was a natural home for an upscale movie theater.
“We’re about being part of a project that creates a total night out,” Hashemi said. “It’s not showing up in your car, watching a movie, and then driving off. This is for people who live and work in the area and want to go shopping, have a meal and enjoy themselves on site.”
The iPic at Metropica will have eight screens and a restaurant led by Los Angeles-based pastry chef Sherry Yard, a James Beard award winner. The theater chain also has locations in Boca Raton, Los Angeles and Austin, among others.
London-based YOO Studio, founded by Phillipe Starck and John Hitchcok, is designing the residential towers. Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design designed the master plan for the project, which will include a public bus station.
But the massive project’s location just a mile from the Everglades has raised some concern from environmental activists.
“We’re very worried about the health of the Everglades, what’s left of it anyway,” said Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Wildlands Association. “That much construction could lead to a lot of runoff going into the canal that separates the Everglades from the urban areas.”
Erick Collazo, vice president of development for Metropica Holdings, which is owned by Kavana, said the developers were committed to environmental safety.
“We’re following all the proper city and county regulations and we’ve purchased additional property to retain additional storm-water runoff in order to prevent flooding,” Collazo said. “The city has approved all our plans and retained an independent engineer to review the entire stormwater system for the area.”
The project’s success will depend on its appeal to buyers who aren’t looking to purchase at the top end of the condo market, said Jack McCabe a housing analyst based in Deerfield Beach.
“I think they’ll do well selling the mid-range units,” McCabe said. “There are certainly baby boomers and younger buyers who can’t afford the prices on the water or on the intracoastal.”
But McCabe questioned whether the more expensive units will get snapped up.
“It may be a tough sell to get someone to spend $1 million for a condo in West Broward when they could buy one on the beach,” McCabe said. “I think there’s definitely a question mark at the upper end of the price range.”
But Kavana believes the time is right for luxury in West Broward, as the county’s center of gravity shifts westward.
“The mega-trend is more people moving west as the eastern part of the county builds up and gets more expensive,” Kavana said. “We saw this shift coming for a long time. Now we think it’s really here.”
“Development is a patience game,” he added.