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(Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real Estate Florida.)

CORAL GABLES, FL- Ponce Circle Developers LLC, a joint venture between commercial developer Ralph Sanchez and Miami-based Mas Group, has begun construction on the Villas at Old Spanish Village, phase one of the $350-million mixed-use development. The project broke ground back in November, working on the urban landscaping of the site, and is now on its way to completing 23 of the 38 townhome villas. Jorge L. Hernandez is the lead architect for the development, with construction by JCON Group. Funding is provided by First Bank of Puerto Rico.

The downtown Coral Gables project will be constructed in phases over the next four years and at completion will include three different types of residences, retail and office space, as reported by GlobeSt.com last January. Each of the structures will be designed to evoke the style of Old Spain, inspired by the themed villages throughout Coral Gables. In addition to the Villas, the seven-acre Old Spanish Village will also include Casa Real, a midrise structure with 112 condominium units; El Prado, a building that will include 34 condominium units in a north tower and 30 units in a south tower; approximately 35,000 sf of ground floor retail; and Ponce de Leon Towers, a 16-story, 215,000-sf class A office tower developed by Allen Morris Co.

“The luxury we have is that it’s a phased project,” Alberto J. Perez, vice president of the Mas Group, tells GlobeSt.com when asked about how the project is getting under way during the current residential downturn. “We’re aware of the challenges.”

The project is set to cater to a mass market because of the three separate price ranges, with units at Casa Real ranging from the high $300,000s to $1 million, units at El Prado starting just under $1 million and the Villas starting at $1.5 million, says Perez. Retail space is for sale at $600 per sf. Developers aim to have their first townhome residents moved in next spring.

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