Art Falcone, CEO of Encore Capital Management, wants to take a part of Plantation and turn it back to the future.
The Boca Raton-based developer purchased the former 37-acre Fashion Mall property on University Drive at auction for $37.7 million in April 2015. Now, he has plans to spend $300 million tearing down much of the existing complex, and creating a walkable “small town.”
“We want to (use) looks from different cities,” said Falcone, who presented his plans to the Plantation City Council on Wednesday night.
The as-yet-unnamed project will have 224,104 square feet of commercial and retail space, 247,305 square feet of office space, including an existing office building, and 700 apartment units. The residential units, in four buildings, will be built in two phases, with around 350 units built in phase I and another 350 units in phase II. Two of the apartment buildings will have some ground-floor retail.
The redevelopment plan includes the demolishing of a parking structure and the gutting and rebuilding of the existing office building. Currently, Falcone said he is negotiating with a single tenant interested in taking the entire building, once it is rebuilt, or about 165,000 square feet.
There is also the possibility that the client will take additional space in a new office building that will be built, said Colin Carby, Encore’s development manager.
“The development plan calls for a lot of space in the public realm,” Carby said, including a town square and a small park with a water feature and event space.
“Our goal is to create a pedestrian-friendly environment; we want to encourage people to walk to the restaurants and shops in one-story buildings on the site,” said Rick Phillippe, senior assistant vice president with CallisonRTKL, the architectural and design firm that designed the project. The same firm planned the original Fashion Mall in the 1980s.
The retail portion of the development, “will have the highest of high-end tenants,” Falcone told Plantation City Council members on Wednesday. He emphasized that he will be looking for new and original tenants, including restaurants featuring chefs who come up with “new concepts.” “You won’t see national chains like Chick-fil-A or Burger King [in the development] because they don’t create value,” said Falcone, although he doesn’t rule out some of the more high-end national chains. The developer expects to fill 40 percent of the retail space with food and beverage tenants and 60 percent with retail tenants.
Carby said Encore will seek site plan approval from the the city in September or October.
Although it will take two to three years to finish the project, Falcone told The Real Deal that he expects to start gutting the existing office building within the next 30 days.
Falcone said his firm is initially funding the project in-house. “We will start with our own balance sheet,” he told TRD. “But later on, we will use outside financing if we need to.”
The nostalgic recreation of a small town is part of the push toward “new urbanism,” a style of urban design that has been sweeping the country for decades. A recent report in the Economist described such developments as “ersatz urbanism,” because, unlike urban development found in older cities, where the melding of populations, commercial activity and architectural styles takes place over decades, or even centuries, these “towns” emerge out of the ground fully-formed.