Plans for the remaining vacant land at Monterra, a 500-acre gated community in Cooper City, are pivoting from a grocery-anchored shopping center to a smaller retail hub, age-restricted apartments, and a corporate headquarters.
The city commission Tuesday gave initial approval to rezoning and variances that would allow developer Diversified Companies to build The Shoppes at Monterra Commons. It will have about 40,000 square feet of restaurants, retail stores, and offices along busy University Drive between Sheridan Street and Stirling Road.
Commissioners are scheduled to vote Aug. 25 on the second and decisive reading of the proposals. The city’s planning and zoning board approved the rezoning and zoning variances at its July 6 meeting.
“We’re hoping to start construction this year,” said Cary Goldberg, president of Deerfield Beach-based Diversified.
The city commission’s action also will allow Diversified to proceed with a plan to transfer control of 4.5 acres to Brightstar Credit Union for construction of a new headquarters. The credit union is now based in Sunrise. “It’s going to be the only corporate headquarters in Cooper City,” Goldberg said.
The Learning Experience, a nationwide daycare operator, has pre-leased a 10,000-square-foot building that will be part of The Shoppes at Monterra Commons, said Courtenay Yergens, senior vice president of Diversified.
Yergens also said Diversified is negotiating with two restaurant operators, Culver’s and First Watch, to lease freestanding locations at the retail center. Diversified expects the tenant mix to include as many as five restaurants and such service providers as medical professionals, dry cleaners, nail salons and insurers.
Goldberg said Diversified is shopping for a loan to finance the 12-month construction phase of its Monterra development, now in its sixth year of planning.
Just west of the development’s location, site work is under way for construction of 175 rental apartments for tenants 55 and older. As The Real Deal reported in June, CC Residential secured a $30.8 million loan from PNC Bank to finance construction of the age-restricted, “active-adult” apartments.
CC Residential is led by longtime South Florida developers James Carr and Armando Codina. Goldberg said Carr and Codina agreed in 2004 to allow Diversified to make a contingent purchase of 20 acres of land at Monterra along University Drive, pending city approval of a commercial development there.
Carr is president of CC Broward Property VI LLC, which had acquired most of the 20 acres for $33.4 million in a multi-parcel purchase from Tousa/Kolter LLC in 2009, according to property records and corporate filings.
“We were going to go in and develop a typical, grocery-anchored center,” which would have spanned about 100,000 square feet, Goldberg said. “We were able to strike a deal with Lucky’s.”
But three years after Lucky’s Market began to plan a new anchor store at Monterra, he said, the grocery store chain canceled the plan in 2018. Colorado-based Lucky’s subsequently closed most of its stores and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“We had no grocer. It’s not like we had a shot at multiple grocers out there,” Goldberg said. “We’d already talked to all of them … Earth Fare wasn’t doing anything. Publix put the Greenwise projects on hold.” Sprouts Farmers Market, the leading prospect to replace Lucky’s as the grocery anchor, proved non-committal, he said.
But soon after Lucky’s canceled its planned anchor store at Monterra, CBRE senior vice president Chris Wood contacted Diversified on behalf of his client Brightstar Credit Union, which was searching for a new headquarters location. That call led to Brightstar’s plan to build a new 63,800-square-foot headquarters and a 6,200-square-foot branch office next to The Shoppes at Monterra Commons.
Brightstar plans to buy 4.5 acres of the 20 acres that Diversified had agreed to buy from Carr and Codina for a supermarket-anchored shopping center development at Monterra.
“Cooper City has very little developable land left, and they want to expand their commercial tax base,” Wood said.
Diversified also agreed to forego the acquisition of 6 acres where Carr and Codina are developing their 175 age-restricted apartments, called Monterra Active Adult Residences.
That leaves 9.5 acres of the initial 20 acres that Diversified initially had planned to acquire and develop at Monterra. Goldberg declined to reveal the price Diversified would pay for the 9.5 acres.
“This has been a long time coming,” commissioner Jeff Green said at the meeting Tuesday. “I’m glad we finally have some movement and that property is going to be developed.”