PHOTOS: On the scene at Miami Worldcenter’s groundbreaking

Miami Worldcenter and Paramount Miami Worldcenter held an official groundbreaking event on Thursday, about three months after developers actually began site preparation work on the 27-acre property.

The project started drilling pilings at the end of last year, and that work is now 80 percent complete, said Dan Kodsi, Paramount Miami Worldcenter’s developer. Next they will be preparing the foundation, before the project goes vertical at the end of the summer, he said.

Overall, Miami Worldcenter has been in the works for more than a decade, and was the “hardest project to put together in our lifetime,” Miami Worldcenter developer Art Falcone told the audience attending the groundbreaking event. The land, which was mostly vacant, was assembled from 43 sellers, Miami Worldcenter Managing Principal Nitin Motwani said.

“What we are doing is building a city within a city,” he said. “We’re filling in the hole of the doughnut. But it’s a big hole.”

To date, the developers have spent “hundreds of million of dollars” on the project, including buying the land, Falcone said. The project has so far been financed with equity. Eventually, the developers said they will seek financing.

In January, Miami Worldcenter scrapped plans for a mall in favor of “High Street” retail, and unveiled new renderings to The Real Deal last month that shed light on the new urban design. “It’s the way retail is going in urban cities, particularly Miami,” Motwani said.

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The development’s retail component will span five blocks of pedestrian-only promenade, encompassing about 400,000 square feet of retail space. The area will be bordered by Northeast Seventh Street to the south, Northeast 10th Street to the north, Northeast Second Avenue to the east and North Miami Avenue to the west.

The centerpiece will be a central plaza, “a gathering place” that can be used for farmers’ markets, outdoor movies, book fairs and concerts, Motwani has said.

The Forbes Co. and Taubman, partners on the retail portion, are in talks with a range of high traffic and luxury retailers and restaurants that would occupy one-story, two-story, and possibly three-story buildings. The partners will have control over curating the selection, so that it will be “a merchandise mix that caters to cosmopolitan Miami demographics,” Motwani said.

The retailers will be similar to those found at malls the Forbes Co. owns, such as the Mall at Millenia in Orlando, the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, and Waterside Shops in Naples, where stores include everything from Jimmy Choo, Gucci and Chanel to Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, J. Crew and Banana Republic.

Paramount Miami Worldcenter, the 700-foot, 513-unit tower that will be at the core of the development, is now 45 percent sold to buyers from 34 countries, Kodsi said that groundbreaking event.

Both Miami Worldcenter’s retail component and Paramount Miami Worldcenter are expected to be completed in the fall of 2018, the developers said.

Miami Worldcenter’s 27-acre development will also include apartments, a hotel and exhibition center. ZOM’s 429-unit luxury apartment building, Luma, will rise along Northeast Second Avenue. And Miami-based MDM Group plans to develop a new Marriott Marquis hotel, set to feature 1,800 hotel rooms and 600,000 square-feet of meeting and event space near the intersection of Northeast Seventh Street and North Miami Avenue.