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

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•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."