Pasco County’s development ready to take off

Dreams and visions for the redevelopment of Pasco County began more than two decades ago. Today, homes, shops, hotels, offices and medical campuses are coming out of the ground and redrawing the county’s future.

On March 1, developers of four of Pasco’s master-planned communities updated more than 100 people who came to the annual Meet the Developers breakfast. The Pasco Economic Development Council sponsored the event at the Marriott Residence Inn, off State Road 54.

In closing remarks, Bill Cronin, president of Pasco EDC said, “this is the right time, the right place for Pasco County…If nothing else, I hope you have that ‘oh, wow’ effect. That’s not the Pasco I knew.”

Bill Cronin, president of the Pasco Economic Development Council, left, introduces developers who spoke at a ‘Meet the Developers’ breakfast. They are: Matt Call, project director of Starkey Ranch/Wheelock Communities; Tom Panaseny, vice president/general manager of Bexley by Newland Communities; J.D. Porter, president of sales and development of Wiregrass Ranch Inc.; and, Kartik Goyani, vice president of operations for Metro Development Group LLC.
(Courtesy of Pasco Economic Development Council)

Speakers at the breakfast were Matt Call, project director at Starkey Ranch, which is being developed by Wheelock Communities; Tom Panaseny, vice president and general manager for Bexley by Newland Communities; J.D. Porter, president of sales and development of Wiregrass Ranch Inc.; and, Kartik Goyani, vice president of operations for Metro Development Group Inc.

“We’re all selling this dream and vision of where Pasco can go,” Call said.

Three years ago, Starkey Ranch, about four miles west of the Suncoast Parkway, off State Road 54, was largely still on the drawing board.

Today, Starkey Ranch anticipates having more than 300 new homes under contract in a year, Call said. So far, there have been more than 150 closings, he added.

The average price of homes being sold there is in the low to mid-$400,000s. The most expensive home — at about 4,800 square feet – sold within the past two weeks for about $874,000.

“Most are not first-time homebuyers,” Call said. “Most are moving-up buyers.”

Upcoming projects included widening Gunn Highway and extending the road into Starkey Ranch.

About one-third of a 20-mile trail system is built and will eventually connect with Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Preserve and the Suncoast Trail.

A business park, fronting State Road 54, is in the works. A town square is planned for 2018.

While Newland Communities is new to Pasco, its track record in Tampa Bay includes master-planned communities in Hillsborough County, including FishHawk Ranch in Riverview and Westchase in Town ‘n Country.

Panaseny described Newland as the largest private developer of planned communities in the country, with projects in 19 states, stretching from coast to coast.

The homebuilder’s first Pasco community is Bexley Ranch, in an area encompassing about 1,700 acres. It is located also on State Road 54, east of Suncoast Parkway.

The Bexley family is developing another 5,000 adjacent acres still under their control.

The Newland project is zoned for more than 1,700 homes; about 95,000 square feet of retail; and, more than 560,000 square feet of office, though that could increase to as much as 1 million square feet.

About five miles of a planned 13-mile trail system is built.

An elementary school now under construction is scheduled to open in August.

About 400 lots are available, with 400 additional lots expected to be ready by the end of the year. Twelve model homes are open for viewing.

Bexley also is planned for offices, shops and a hotel, as well as apartments and single-family homes.

A groundbreaking is anticipated in March for more than 300 apartments.

Access to Bexley currently is through the Ballantrae community to the east. But, within 60 to 90 days, Panaseny said Bexley Village Drive should open, with access directly off State Road 54.

The average home price is about $350,000.

“It’s been a strong market,” Panaseny said.

Upcoming projects include a medical facility, a Race Trac gas station and convenience store, and a 7-acre shopping center.

“We’d love to have a grocery store anchor the center, or possibly restaurants,” Panaseny said.

A Marriott hotel is expected to break ground in July.

There also is about 32 acres available for offices. “We very much want to bring Class A office space here,” he said.

Wiregrass Ranch is rebranding itself, with a new logo and a re-energized focus as new developments in the master-planned community emerge.

Wiregrass is the fastest growing community in the Tampa Bay area, said Porter, of  Wiregrass Ranch Inc.

The property is zoned for 10,500 homes; 2.7 million square feet of retail; 2.6 million square feet of office; and 600 hotel beds. A middle school and a high school have been built. Additional retail and office space are planned.

Next to The Shops at Wiregrass, plans are underway for an expansion that will include high-end shops and boutiques, a cine bistro, a grocery store and apartments.

Raymond James Financial campus is expected to start construction later this year on a campus that could have about 1 million square feet of office space and an 1,800-space parking garage.

Medical facilities are filling up the surrounding area. They include Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, Florida Medical Clinic and North Tampa Behavioral Health.

Beach House is an upscale assisted living facility under construction.

“You’re going to continue to see good, smart growth because it’s an environment people want to be in,” said Porter.

Metro Development Group is building a master-planned community at Epperson Ranch, which is part of a state-approved pilot program to create a Connected City corridor built with technology innovations. At build out, Metro is projecting about 37,000 homes; 12 million square-feet of office, retail and technology manufacturing; 100 miles of traffic lanes for self-driving vehicles; and two Crystal Lagoons.

The first lagoon at Epperson Ranch is a 7-acre, manmade pool of crystal blue water under construction at Epperson Ranch, off State Road 52 at Overpass Road. To the north, a second community, known as Mirada, is also planned with a larger Crystal Lagoon.

Metro controls about 35 percent of land within Connected City, which sets aside about 7,800 acres in northeastern Pasco. Metro and other developers are expected to build master-planned communities embedded with cutting-edge technology, and focused on creating technology driven jobs and new businesses.

A groundbreaking for the Crystal Lagoon at Epperson happened in February. The lagoon is expected to be complete by the end of 2017. In the first weeks, 15 homes have sold, and there is a waiting list of more than 1,000 people who want to buy, said Kartik Goyani, vice president of operations for Metro.

Published March 8, 2017

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