MIAMI-With the securing of an $85-million construction loan, Los Angeles-based Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund and locally based mFm Construction has started construction on the two-building, 395-unit Morrison mixed-use development.

mFm Construction partner Eli Dreszer tells that excavation work has started for the work force housing project in the Little Havana neighborhood. A formal groundbreaking is planned for later this year. The project, which is expected to cost $120 million, is scheduled to be completed in 2009, although one tower will be completed a few months ahead of the other one.

The financing was provided by Citi Community Capital. Peter McDougal and Nancy Griffin, of Citi Community Capital, facilitated the transaction. Locally based Greenberg Traurig, led by shareholder Joseph Hernandez, served as legal counsel for the developers in the transaction. “Because this is a work force housing project, we were shielded somewhat from the volatility that the financial markets are currently experiencing,” Dreszer says.

Located at Southwest Flagler Street between Southwest Seventh and Eighth avenues, the project will be comprised of two 19-story residential towers atop a seven-story parking garage. The development will also include 30,000 sf of retail space, 34,000 sf of office space and 667 parking spaces. It is anticipated that retail uses will include a bank branch, coffee shops, drug store, beauty salon and other neighborhood businesses. Dreszer anticipates that marketing efforts for the commercial space will begin by the end of the year.

Preconstruction prices for the units range from the low $200,000s to the high $300,000s. The fully furnished units will include stainless steel appliances, granite in kitchens and bathrooms and balconies. Complex amenities will include a fitness center, yoga pavilion and two swimming pools. More than 50% of the units have been sold.

mFm Construction specializes in the development of work force housing with 10 condominium projects in Little Havana and several more planned for development throughout South Florida. The Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund is a joint venture between Canyon Capital Realty Advisors and basketball star Magic Johnson.