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COOPER CITY, FL-It took more than three years, but Paradise Development Group Inc. is ready to begin site work on the 30-acre Cooper City Commons mixed-use retail-office project.

Last week, the Tampa Bay-area commercial real estate development company won final approval on an off-site wetlands mitigation plan that cleared the way for construction on the Cooper City development site.

“We’ve been working on this for about three, maybe three and half years, because of the mitigation and wellfield issues,” George K. Kidman, a Paradise Development executive vice president and partner, tells GlobeSt.com.

The Cooper City Commons project is one of six retail developments that Kidman, in partnership with Michael P. Connor, Paradise Development president, are presently approved to build in the South Florida market. Operating from main offices in Safety Harbor, FL, the company has developed about 30 Publix retail centers mostly in Florida but also in Georgia and Alabama.

City planning records show the development site, located on the northeast corner of Sheridan Street and the proposed extension of Pine Island Road, is approved for about 81,197-sf of retail space on 23.5 acres, retail outparcels consisting on seven 1-acre sites and roughly 325,435 sf of office space on 7.47 acres.

“We’re looking to sell the office component,” Kidman says. The partnership already is experiencing significant demand for space within the retail center, even though Publix is taking nearly 51,420 sf of the total. “We started marketing efforts about two months ago,” Kidman says. “We’ve already got prospective leases of about 18,000 sf.”

The project would come on line during what appears to be an advantageous time, according to a retail market report published by Woolbright Development Inc., a Boca Raton-based commercial real estate development and investment company. Retail vacancy rates in the Davie-Cooper City submarket decreased to 12% as of October 2000 from 13% at the same time in 1999.

The Woolbright market report also shows that the submarket absorbed about 318,000 sf over the 12 months ended October 2000. Besides the Cooper City Common projects, three other retail centers are scheduled to open over the next two years in the submarket, including Publix at Big Sky on Sheridan Street, Publix at Plantation on Flamingo Road, and Flamingo Falls Town Center on Sheridan Street.

To win construction approval on the Cooper City project, Paradise and Publix faced a significant challenge because of the site’s location within the Broward County South Regional Wellfield. It took considerable time to negotiate development agreements with a number of government agencies, including the Broward County Department of Planning and Environmental Protection, South Florida Water Management District and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Last week, the Broward County Commission approved a plan that requires the Paradise-Publix venture to mitigate about 30.2 acres of environmentally sensitive land within the Long Key/Flamingo Road Natural Area. The development group agreed to mitigate that site for a period of nine years and monitor the mitigation for another five years, in addition to contributing $193,010 to the county’s Natural Areas Trust Fund.

Besides the off-site mitigation plan, the development group also agreed to set aside another 26 acres adjacent to the development site as perpetual green space for water retention and other purposes.

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