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MIAMI-Miami Heat basketball player Shaquille O’Neal has established the locally based O’Neal Group with his first venture being and alliance with locally based MDM Development, developers of Metropolitan Miami, a $1-billion mixed-use project.

The formation of the O’Neal Group formalizes O’Neal’s interest in real estate. The O’Neal Group will seek to engage in partnerships and joint ventures to acquire, develop and promote select projects across the US. O’Neal has already amassed more than $50 million in residential and commercial property throughout his career with the NBA. Areas of interest for his new venture include select markets in the northeast, including his native state of New Jersey, South Florida, Los Angeles and Louisiana.

“We’ve scoured the country to find an appropriate venue through which we could launch the O’Neal Group and ultimately we decided that the best place to start was in our own backyard with Metropolitan Miami,” O’Neal says, in a released statement. “This is the largest residential development project in Downtown Miami proper and it sits on the site where the historical Royal Palm Hotel used to be, the property that first launched downtown Miami more than 100 years ago.”

Although the financial terms were not disclosed, the O’Neal Group has a financial stake in Metropolitan Miami and will be providing support for the project. The O’Neal Group will assist with the sales and marketing of the development.

The project, referred to as the Met, was launched in fall 2003 with construction of the first phase beginning about a year and one-half ago. It includes more than 1,100 residential units, including the 866-foot Met 3, the latest phase of the project which will be the tallest residential tower south of New York. The project will also include an office tower, luxury hotel, entertainment complex and the area’s first Whole Foods store. O’Neal also plans to bring a 24-hour Fitness/Shaq Ultra Sport fitness facility to the project.

MDM Development principal Luis Pulenta tells GlobeSt.com that Met 1, the first phase of the project, will be topped off in November with occupancy expected in mid-2007. Construction has already begun on Met 2, the office and hotel portion of the project, with work on Met 3 expected to begin in the first quarter of 2007. Met Square, the 120,000-sf, four-story retail component of the project will not open until the end of 2009.

“We think O’Neal’s involvement not only enhances our project but the whole revitalization of the Downtown area,” Pulenta says.

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