A developer who had originally planned to build a 260-acre corporate park near the Suncoast Parkway before selling the land last year hasn’t quite given up on Pasco County.
Charles Bruck, the owner of Tampa’s SoHo Capital, is among the buyers of more than 1,000 acres of land just west of Quail Hollow in Wesley Chapel. Bruck’s SoHo Dayflower LLC company and some other partners completed the purchase just before Thanksgiving for $4.2 million.
But what does Bruck have in store for the land? He’s not talking quite yet. However, it’s not necessarily far-fetched to believe he’s planning to turn hundreds of acres of agricultural land into a brand new development.
Except that’s not what he’s doing, at least according to one prominent land broker. Bill Eshenbaugh, known in the industry as “The Dirt Dog” and owner of Eshenbaugh Land Co., wasn’t involved in this particular land sale, but has worked in the past for Bruck, as well as his partners in this particular purchase — J. Aprile Properties LLC, D. Aprile Properties LLC and R. Aprile Properties LLC.
The plan? Leave the land just the way it is. At least for now.
“The Apriles are good dairymen, and they can work that land just the way it’s been for the past few decades,” Eshenbaugh said. “They really have nothing to lose on this. It’s one of the lowest prices I’ve seen.”
The purchase was most likely part of what is known in the land industry as a 1031 exchange, Eshenbaugh said. That refers to a portion of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code where a property owner can sell land, and then reinvest those proceeds in a similar property purchase elsewhere to defer the capital gains taxes he would have to pay otherwise.
The Apriles, for example, recently sold one of Hillsborough County’s last dairy farms off Cowley Road in the Riverview area, Eshenbaugh said. The family could reinvest that money in the Pasco land to avoid paying federal taxes on the profit.
Two foreign companies have owned the land Bruck’s group purchased since the 1980s. The largest parcel of more than 600 acres, located west of Mangrove Drive, surrounds a small block of homes on Armenian Lane behind a rural gate known as Armenian Acres.
Gazas N.V. Inc., a company located in the former Netherlands Antilles, bought that land in 1981 for $1.1 million, according to county property records, or what would be $2.9 million today.
The second parcel is located north of it, along Quail Hollow Boulevard, just below Apple Blossom Lane. Lexel Establishment Ltd. of Israel purchased that land in 1980 for $520,000, or $1.5 million when adjusted for inflation.
Just two years ago, the property owners approached Pasco County officials about potentially developing the land to build up to 1,000 homes. However, building officials resisted the idea, according to notes from that meeting, citing the need to vastly improve what are primarily rural roads connecting that land to the major throughways.
Bruck could come back and work with the county on possibly developing that land again in the future, Eshenbaugh said, and would have the necessary experience to get it done. Or, Bruck and the Apriles could flip the land in a few years, and likely make a hefty profit since they likely could make far more than they paid.
Bruck wanted to build what he was calling the Suncoast Employment Village, some 260 acres of land he bought in 2011 for nearly $1.8 million along State Road 54 just east of the Suncoast Parkway. However, Bruck flipped that land just two years later to Newland Communities LLC for $6 million, which would then become a part of that developer’s much larger Bexley Ranch project.
When the land was sold, it was entitled to build 780 townhomes, 1.8 million square feet of office space, and 440,000 square feet of retail, according to published reports.
The Suncoast Employment Village was another example of Bruck buying land cheap — at less than $7,000 an acre. But in this particular case, instead of developing it as he had planned, Bruck instead was able to sell for $23,000 an acre, more than triple what he originally paid.
So far, no one has approached the county again about developing the land into a residential or commercial site, said Michele Crary of the county’s planning and development department. If Bruck and the Apriles do set up a meeting, however, they would still be hampered by the need to vastly upgrade roads like Quail Hollow Boulevard to make such a project feasible.
Bruck did not return requests for comment made through his primary company, SoHo Capital.
Published December 10, 2014
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