Union Park is delivering the lickety-split Internet connections that homebuilders say homebuyers are increasingly putting at the top, or near the top, of their desired list of amenities.
Along with the clubhouse, swimming pool, trails and green space, homebuyers are putting greater emphasis on new technology and what it adds to quality of life, homebuilders say.
From Day 1, Union Park residents are connected to UltraFi, a fiber-based delivery system with connecting speeds as fast as one gigabit. Starting speeds generally are 100/100 megabits per second as part of a standard package included in homeowner association fees.
But, Bright House Networks, in partnership with Metro Development Group, is ready to boost speeds to the maximum.
Turning lights on and off, cooling or heating the house and setting alarms — is a tap away, at home or remotely.
Besides that, videos, photos, data can be downloaded in seconds, not minutes, and uploads are just as fast.
“It’s a requirement if you are building here,” said Mike Lawson, director of operations for Metro Development Group. “You contract to prewire. Every builder is embracing this.”
In the future, Metro developers expect other developers to consider this new technology as a staple of homebuilding, the same as water, utilities and electricity. For now, they feel like pioneers in a cutting-edge concept to provide these connections from the ground up, not as an add-on after move-in day.
“We’re trying something radically different,” said Kartik Goyani, vice president of operations for Metro Development Group.
At build-out, Union Park could have a maximum of 1,800 homes. Home prices range from $200,000 to $500,000.
When construction began there in 2014, Union Park was the first Metro development to install UltraFi. Since then, three more UltraFi communities have opened in Hillsborough County — Park Creek, Waterleaf and Sereno.
But, Union Park also has been a testing ground for an even grander vision for a master-planned “Connected City” development within about 7,800 acres in central and eastern Pasco County. The site is designated as a state-approved special district, bordered by Interstate 75, State Road 52, Curley Road and Overpass Road.
The district is a 10-year pilot program, but the plan, in total, will evolve over 50 years as several mixed-use development projects emerge.
“This (Union Park) is the platform that will help launch Connected City and take the development of its technology to the next level,” Lawson said. “We were the first in the nation to come up with this idea.”
UltraFi is what sold Russ Griggs and his family on Union Park.
Griggs, his wife, Donna, and their three children moved into Union Park nearly a year ago.
They had checked out other Wesley Chapel area subdivisions first before making their choice.
“I work from home. I have a software company, so a high speed connection is very important,” said Russ Griggs, product development manager for Osprey Compliance Software. “I do a lot of video conferences with people around the world.”
People often comment on the download speed and crisp screen shots, he said.
The super connectivity also is a plus for leisure streaming on tablets, computers or televisions for the Griggs and their three children, ages 7 to 13.
In addition to its Internet connectivity, Union Park also boasts outdoor common areas; miles of multi-use trails; a dog park; a Florida-style, open-air clubhouse; a birdhouse village; a zen garden; and, a shaded “tot lot.”
This is all part of creating a sense of community at Union Park, with technology as the common unifier, Goyani said.
In most cases, urban areas are the focus of companies seeking to deliver faster Internet speed and WiFi connections, but Pasco is proving to be the exception to the rule.
Pasco has an advantage with its large swaths of rural landscape where retrofitting isn’t required, and costs for new infrastructure are less expensive, Lawson said.
Google Fiber, for instance, has a 30-city initiative with plans to provide one-gigabit speeds. Recently, the company announced a delay in moving forward, including a project in Tampa.
“It is extremely expensive to retrofit, dense urban environments,” Lawson said.
The next step for Connected City is a public hearing of the county’s Local Planning Agency on Sept. 15 at 1:30 p.m., at the Pasco County Historic Courthouse in Dade City.
For information on Union Park, visit UnionPark.metroplaces.com.
Published September 7, 2016