Some may consider it risky business transforming a dairy site into townhomes and a Kmart into a Caribbean marketplace — especially when both parcels front State Road 7.
Not George Rahael, a Trinidad native and president of Amera Corp.
The Coral Springs developer thinks townhomes — priced at $175,000 and up — will be the perfect complement to a Caribbean village that would replace a vacant Kmart just west of the Swap Shop on Sunrise Boulevard.
Rahael envisions sidewalk cafes and shops next to a hotel and office building for consulates from the Caribbean. The marketplace would be next to a planned regional park that will include a cricket complex.
“We deliberately chose not to model [the project] after your typical town center like Mizner Park [in Boca Raton] or CityPlace [in West Palm Beach],” Rahael said.
“Lauderhill required something that would be unique and different, something that would fit in the city of Lauderhill.”
With the county making plans to build the 96-acre park at Sunrise Boulevard and State Road 7, the city bought both the Kmart and McArthur Dairy parcels. The plan was to lure a developer while retaining some control over how the corner was developed.
Enter Rahael, who has offered to pay $2.9 million for the 10-acre McArthur Dairy site and is still negotiating a price for the 13-acre Kmart site.
“We can’t have wall-to-wall strip centers up and down 441,” he told commissioners during a presentation at City Hall. “I remember [the old] 441 and shopping in the Lauderhill Mall, and I would like those days to come back.”
Rahael wants to build 100 three-bedroom townhomes on the former dairy site — the same parcel that brought the city embarrassment two years ago during its attempt to woo the New York-based Wittnauer International watch company.
The city began courting Wittnauer in 1999, and within two years was poised to grant $1 million in incentives.
The city lost $100,000 before backing out of the deal.
Early this year, the city paid $2.5 million for the McArthur site, at 1101 N. State Road 7. Last year, it paid $4.3 million for the Kmart site, at 1010 N. State Road 7.
“You now have the opportunity to influence what happens on those two properties,” Rahael told commissioners. “We’re hoping this [project] acts as a catalyst.”
With a regional park nearby, Rahael thinks the corner may eventually attract hotel developers to both parcels.
“Traditionally 441 has always been viewed as a corridor of strip centers and auto dealerships,” he said. “You’ve had so many failed strip centers that have struggled. Now’s the time to take a fresh look at the corridor and think outside the box.”
Susannah Bryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-572-2028.