By B.C. Manion
Theoretically, the recession has been over for quite some time.
The people who keep track of such things for the federal government said the recession officially ended in June 2009.
But it sure doesn’t feel that way for millions of Americans who remain out of work – including thousands of government workers in schools, cities, counties and state offices who recently got their pink slips, or whose jobs are on the chopping block.
Foreclosures glut the housing market — undermining values and stalling a recovery.
And, rising costs of gasoline and groceries are crimping other kinds of consumer spending.
All in all, the picture seems pretty bleak.
But there are bright spots — some signs of life — on the horizon in the community. Here’s a look at some of them:
Medical Center of Trinity, a 400,000-square-foot center under construction at SR 54 and Little Road in Trinity, is set to open in November. The five-story project, estimated at $210 million, will replace the 40-year-old Community Hospital in New Port Richey. The project includes a 90,000-square-foot medical office. The 55-acre site has ample space for expansion.
Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel is a $121 million project now being built on a 52-acre site on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, north of SR 56. The 200,000-square-foot facility will have three stories and will begin operation with 80 beds, with plans to expand to 300. Construction began in December and the project is expected to take 18-24 months to complete.
Pasco Regional Medical Center, based in Dade City, began an 8,400-square-foot expansion of its emergency department in February. The project, which is expected to take about nine months to complete, will add eight exam rooms and new imaging equipment. A renovation also will be done the 4,300 square feet of existing space.
Florida Medical Clinic is adding a 30,000-square-foot administrative building that will be its new corporate headquarters in Land O’ Lakes. The $3.5 million facility is under construction on SR 54, near Livingston Road. Florida Medical Clinic also will see at least three major additions to its healthcare offerings in Zephyrhills this year – expansions to its same-day surgery, clinical rheumatology and urgent care facilities. The same-day surgery will grow by 12,000 square feet, rheumatology will increase by 7,500 square feet and there are tentative plans for a 7,000-square-foot addition to urgent care.
BayCare Outpatient Imaging Center opened in December next to St. Joseph’s Hospital-North, a project that opened in 2010 on Van Dyke Road, adding 500 jobs to the local economy.
NuVista Care Communities at Lutz Center, 19091 N. Dale Mabry Highway, scheduled to open soon with 120 beds, will serve people who are undergoing rehabilitation. The 550,000-square-foot center is expected to bring about 150 jobs to the area. Patients are expected to have stays at the facility ranging from three to six weeks. The center has 16 private rooms and 52 shared rooms.
Pasco County is in the midst of widening SR 54, in the most expensive road project the county has ever taken on. The $105 million project involves widening SR 54 to six lanes from I-75 to Curley Road in Wesley Chapel, a distance of about 3.2 miles. Work is expected to wrap up in 2012.
Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, also known as CR 581 or SR 581 recently was widened, between SR 54 and SR 56.
W. Lutz-Lake Fern Road is being widened from two to four lanes in an area that’s just east of the Suncoast Parkway to the Boulevard of Roses. The next segment of the road’s widening will continue to North Dale Mabry Highway, but that portion of the project is not fully funded.
Improvements also are being made on I-75, with 32.6 miles of highway being widened between SR 56 and the Hernando County line.
Two new rest stops also are being constructed on I-75, between SR 54 and SR 56, to replace outdated facilities. The rest areas, which are on both sides of the interstate, are expected to open by year-end. The estimated cost of the project is $25.1 million.
Rasmussen College opened a 25,000-square-foot building in May at Sunlake Boulevard and SR 54. The campus has schools of nursing, health science, tech and design, business education and justice studies. At full capacity, the campus is expected to serve about 1,000 students and will have 50-60 staff members.
Saint Leo University is in the midst of building a new $11 million school of business building at its main campus in Dade City. The 50,000-square-foot structure will house the Donald R. Tapia School of Business. Classes are set to begin in the new building on Aug. 23. The building includes nine classrooms, a large lecture hall which doubles as a boardroom, computer labs and a broadcast technology suite.
Pasco-Hernando Community College expects to begin construction this summer on the $52 million Porter Campus at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel. College officials are hoping to begin classes at the campus in January 2014. The college expects to have about 30 employees at the campus, which will have an estimated enrollment of an equivalent of 700 full-time students. The campus will be built on a 60-acre tract at 2727 Mansfield Blvd., just off SR 56, next to Wiregrass Ranch High.
Pasco County Schools expects its new $6 million Academy of Culinary Arts, now under construction at Land O’ Lakes High, to open this fall at the high school, 20325 Gator Lane. The 18,000-square-foot center will include three kitchens, commercial kitchen equipment and video feeds throughout the center so cooking demonstrations can be shown throughout the building.
Gaither High, 16200 N. Dale Mabry Highway, is undergoing a $17.3 million makeover. The project began in January and is expected to take about 18 months to complete. The school is closed this summer, to accommodate renovations.
Wal-Mart is planning a 196,150-square-foot store along with a 21,372-square-foot garden center with four outparcels on the south side of SR 54, near Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, according to Pasco County records.
MINI of Wesley Chapel! a new dealership specializing in Mini-Coopers, is expected to open this summer on SR 56, about one-half mile from I-75. The dealership expects to draw customers from across the Tampa Bay region.
The Dance and Gymnastics Academy of Tampa recently opened a new 12,000-square-foot facility at 33633 Venezia Drive, near the corner of SR 54 and Livingston Road. The $1.8 million project had its ribbon cutting to signal its opening on May 26.
Down the road?
T. Rowe Price, a global investment management firm, already has acquired a 72-acre site SR 54 and Sunlake Boulevard, across from Rasmussen College. It plans to open a corporate campus there that could employ up to 1,600 workers, although that may not be anytime soon.
Raymond James, a financial services company is eyeing a potential site in Wesley Chapel. The company has signed a letter of intent to purchase land in Wiregrass Ranch, according to Rep. Will Weatherford, who successfully pushed through legislation for $4 million in state road money to build access roads to a Wiregrass Ranch site.