CORAL SPRINGS, FL – Rod Sheldon had rebuilt dozens of properties into stores, banks, pharmacies, and other buildings across the nation over the past 30 years. But there was one property, in particular, that he had his sights on to redevelop: Coral Springs Financial Plaza.

The longtime South Florida resident and developer had driven past the aging and towering building in downtown Coral Springs countless times -- each time thinking the seven-acre property could be remade into something more exciting like a hotspot for restaurants and entertainment as well as apartments and office space.

Two years ago, Sheldon got the chance to pursue his dream by purchasing the property for about $16 million.

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And now, fresh off approvals from the Coral Springs City Commission, the largest and most ambitious project in Sheldon’s career – Cornerstone – is finally moving forward at the corner of Sample Road and University Drive.

For the 60-year-old, soft-spoken Long Island, New York native, Cornerstone isn’t a trophy development but rather a chance to make positive change.

“I’m playing a small role in what I think will be a pivotal project to help transform the city,” Sheldon said in an interview on Thursday.

He sees the opportunity to tear down the financial center and replace it with 352 luxury apartments, 125 hotel rooms, eight restaurants/pubs, entertainment/athletic-related businesses (he can’t say what they will be yet), and roughly 200,000-square-feet of new office space as a magnet for drawing crowds to a mostly sleepy downtown.

It’s also, Sheldon said, an opportunity to attract many more development projects to the area, which his Boca Raton-based Predesco Property Investments would certainly be interested in being involved in. About six years ago, his company rebuilt Denny’s restaurant on University Drive into a Chase bank and Pei Wei location, about a block south of Cornerstone.

He said the story about Cornerstone is less about his ambitions but rather the vision of city officials.

“We shared the same vision and it was the start of a love affair that has been going on now with city staff and commission for two years,” he said. “We really had that kumbaya moment in terms of creating for the city what I think is going to transform it for the next 100 years.”

For Sheldon, the development business and family go hand-in-hand. His daughter, Brittany, 31 handles the company’s land acquisitions and his son, Brett, 28, deals with brokers and selling of properties. His youngest son, Bryan, 22, is getting a Master’s Degree in accounting at the University of Florida, and he too plans to join the business. Sheldon’s business partner is Michael Kenney, 42 who he refers to as "consummate deal maker."

This line of work isn’t for everyone, he said. “It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a tough business.”

If he had it his way, Sheldon jokes that he would love to be in Manhattan “building a 200-story” building. He added: “Maybe if I started a little younger in the business it could have happened.”

But he’s got no complaints about the 70 or so mostly retail construction projects that his company has been involved in across the East Coast, from Florida to North Carolina to Massachusetts.

His crown jewel, though, is Cornerstone, which has been through more than 20 design versions since its inception, he said. His timing was perfect, he said, because Coral Springs officials had ideas for that property and his project matched their visions.

He expects the Coral Springs Financial Plaza to be razed in the summer and construction to start by this time in 2021.

“We’re at the point now where all of our hard work is about to pay off in terms of a real value-added for what’s now 130,000 plus people in Coral Springs,” he said.