You may not hear Gloria Estefan, Flo Rida, and DJ Khaled writing songs about how sexy Broward County is. But investors and developers are now giving the City of Sunrise a second look, and suburban Fort Lauderdale may never be the same.
Broward County entrepreneurs are looking to introduce an expansion known as Metropica to make Sunrise — a city about 20 minutes west of Fort Lauderdale — more like the urban Miami lifestyle that both tourists and locals love.
Some people are calling Metropica the next big thing. Others are calling it developmental damage. One thing they both can agree on is that the local lifestyle of Sunrise is about to change faster than the trendy styles in the windows of the Sawgrass Mills Mall.
According to World Population Review, South Florida is home to over six million residents. As of 2016, there were over 400,000 residents living in Miami, known for sunny cerulean skies and diverse cultures. A little bit of that lifestyle, developers say, is headed towards Broward County.
Investors and developers are sizing up the City of Sunrise, best known for the popular and tourist-filled Sawgrass Mills Mall. The mall will now be expanded another 70-acres and will be a hub fed by a new mega-development known as Metropica, a $1 billion project.
Metropica homes will include 30-story high-rises not usually seen outside of Miami, luxury condos, a rooftop pool and garden surrounded by palm trees blowing in the wind, and neon-colored nightlife you’d usually only find on South Beach. There will also be concerts and cultural venues to make the area about far more than shopping.
“Some of us have been looking forward to this for a long time,” said Sunrise City Commission employee and event organizer Jessica Conover.
“Metropica’s first phase will be fully developed by the end of 2019 and it’s all just getting started,” according to the group’s website “Once finished, Metropica will include a community of four million square feet on 65 acres. Metropica will change the face of Sunrise and west Broward County.” The website also states that Metropica is trying to differentiate itself from other communities by offering more than just shopping and dining, but also the best views, the most stylish homes, and more retail outlets than any other shopping venue in the state.
Conover, Rey Garcia, and Bruno Condrone — all of the Sunrise City Commission — know a thing or two about the new mega-development. “We approved all of it in 2014, and from what I’ve heard, 2024 or 2025 is when it’ll be fully developed,” said Conover. She said there will be about 20 acres of condos, each about 30 stories tall and containing 250 units, all of it surrounded by a lush park.
Since 2014, developers have already launched some residential condo living and entertainment in the early phase of Metropica.
Once a month, Welleby and Sunrise Board of Directors will schedule a meeting to discuss the development along with other neighborhood aspects. During a recent meeting, Garcia, one of the City of Sunrise Commission representatives, said Metropica is going to bring Miami’s lifestyle to what had been a sleepy part of Broward County.
“It’ll bring more business, more income, and we get to offer something new and exciting,” said Garcia.
Condrone predicts that this area will be the “next big thing” for the area. “It’ll be good for young people but better for families,” he said of the amenities and park.
Metropica has already started creating, sharing pictures, and sharing a list on their website, social media, and Real Deal Development of what restaurants and shops will be there along with pictures of cheerful men and women.
While this may seem like bliss for potential buyers for some people, not everyone is thrilled that this mega-city is about to bigfoot its way in. Paul Callsen, the president of Sunrise’s Welleby Homeowners Association — the largest homeowners association in Sunrise — see Metropica as a menace to South Florida’s ecosystem.
“The mall area lies very close to wetlands and can have an impact on those wetlands,” said Callsen, who also works for the Sawgrass Nature Center. Callsen has been on the Welleby board and dealing with the local community since 1998 and has been the president for about 15 years, and from 1998 to 2008 he was the Director of Public Works.
“The mall area lies very close to wetlands and can have an impact on those wetlands. The wetlands that were surrounded by plants and animals had a lot of tree islands. The tree islands are important to the Florida Everglades and our ecosystem. From an ecological standpoint, the more buildings they put up, the more they change and damage…our Everglades and ecosystem as a whole.” Sunrise straddles the Everglades, a 1.5-million-acre wetlands preserve, and some environmentalists say that development is already encroaching on a protected national treasure which contains several endangered species.
“This project makes it easier for invasive species to grow and adapt. Certain species to die or grow more rapidly, and changing the ecosystem that is something we are not used to and do not recognize,” said Callsen.
The urban development has the possibility to change our ecosystem the more and more we build on top of it. Developers have been changing that particular Sawgrass Mall area since 1910, and according to Callsen, the urbanization has gotten wider, bigger and deeper.
“A lot of people don’t think about the animal life as well,” said Callsen. Callsen continued, “If we invade the homes of raccoons let’s say, they’ll start popping up where folks don’t want them.” Accordingly, Callsen also stated the drainage that runs south, all the way down to 595, may not function as smoothly once the development is fully underway.
“That type of massive development, roofs, sidewalks, pipes, and more, this makes it harder for water to get into the ground, and that can cause problems for plants, animals, and even lead to droughts in certain parts,” Callsen insists.
“Metropica will only add to this problem.”