The Metropica project proposed in Sunrise
The Metropica project proposed in Sunrise ()

The developer of the massive $1 billion Metropica project envisioned for Sunrise faces a lawsuit in a dispute over a shared strip of land.

City commissioners gave Metropica Holdings LLC final approval Tuesday evening to build its mixed-used development off Sunrise Boulevard in the heart of the city’s retail sector. The 65-acre project has entitlements for nearly 2,400 residential units, 650,000 square feet of office space and 485,000 square feet of commercial development.

But at least one neighbor is unhappy with the plan and has filed suit against the city and the developer of the proposed “city within a city.”

Florida Value Partners, the owner of a shopping center next to the Metropica site, filed a complaint for declaratory relief in Broward Circuit Court on July 8. The suit names Metropica Holdings and its partners K Group Holdings Inc., Sawgrass Property Investments and Sawgrass 17 Acres Partnership as defendants. The city, which has a development agreement with the companies, also was sued.

Florida Value Partners controls a private equity fund that invests in mid-market companies in Florida and the southeastern U.S. In 2011, the affiliated FVP Sawgrass LLC bought the Sawgrass Commons shopping center, a 46,553-square-foot retail plaza on nearly 6 acres at 13001-13191 W. Sunrise Blvd. That deal included a years-old easement agreement that allowed “all present and future owners” of the neighboring parcels to share a strip of land between the two sites for drainage and traffic flow.

But the agreement never envisioned a mini-city next door, FVP’s attorneys said. Sharing the road with a sprawling development would violate FVP’s right as a property owner, dwarf Sawgrass Commons and divert customers from the smaller shopper center, they said.

“You can’t use an easement beyond its intended purpose,” said FVP attorney John Shubin, a partner at Shubin & Bass in Miami. “The use of the road for ingress and egress to the Metropica project goes so far beyond what was originally contemplated when the agreement was entered into. It’s one thing to allow somebody to use your easement if they’re building a strip mall. It’s another thing altogether to have it used for a city within a city.”

Metropica’s developers say the suit is unlikely to impede construction.

“Our position is that the lawsuit is baseless,” said Joseph Kavana, CEO of K Group Holdings Inc., the lead developer on the venture. “We will let the court decide. In any case, this is just one of many different entries that the project has, so we don’t believe it will affect the project one bit.”

As a backup plan, the group is prepared to adjust its site plan to move the roadway.

City Manager Alan Cohen declined comment on the suit, but the commissioners Tuesday approved a resolution to hire Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson as its defense counsel at an hourly rate of $200 for attorneys and $90 for paralegals.

In the meantime, Metropica’s developers are celebrating the City Commission’s 5-0 vote to approve the project’s master plan and zoning.

Immediate Construction

Metropica Holdings started construction of a residential sales gallery for pre-sales launch Sept. 1 and an official opening Oct. 30.

It will start construction of its first condominium building, a 264-unit high-rise, by the end of first quarter 2015 and wrap up in two years.

About six months into the initial phase, the group plans to start work on a retail mixed-used component with a 125-room limited-service hotel.

Planners say it will take about six years to complete Metropica. When complete, the development will sit on both sides of the Sunrise Boulevard at 136th Avenue near the Sawgrass Mills mall, BB&T Center and the planned American Express regional headquarters.

“Walkability, sociability and connectivity are paramount at Metropica,” Kavana said. “People will enjoy the vibrant living, shopping, dining and entertainment selections we’ve envisioned for this development at the crossroads of cutting-edge architecture and sustainable urban design.”