Pasco County could soon be zooming through the 21st century’s technology revolution at lightning speeds as the nation’s first smart gigabit community.
More than 7,800 acres in central and eastern Pasco County are slated to become a state-approved special development district, overseen locally and focusing on a land use plan that will embed state-of-the-art technology into future residential and commercial developments.
The district is known as a connected-city corridor. Interstate 75, State Road 52, Curley Road and Overpass Road border the district.
The unifying link would be UltraFi, a Bright House fiber-optic cable network with Internet speeds that can download 100 photos lickety-split in 3 seconds, not the more typical snail-pace of 4 minutes plus.
“We think it is more than a place. It is an engine for ideas…and for community engagement,” said Karik Goyani, vice president of operations for Metro Development Group.
And, its applications go beyond entertainment into areas such as health care, education, public safety, remote surgical training, software lending libraries and job creation.
For example, surgical training can be done remotely with 3-D imaging. Biology students can examine live specimens under a microscope that is set up thousands of miles away. Pollen counts specific to a single neighborhood can be available to asthma patients who need to plan their day.
Residents got a peak at the special district at a presentation in September.
Pasco County commissioners got an overview of the district and its potential as an economic driver for the county at a Dec. 8 workshop. A second workshop on Jan. 19 will focus on financial plans for the district.
Metro Development Group and Heidt Design are partnering with the county on this one-of-a-kind visioning plan. State legislators approved the special district as a 10-year-pilot program, but the plan in total will evolve over 50 years.
The pilot portion of development will bypass the usual state reviews, with approvals made locally by county commissioners.
“The buck stops with you,” said Pat Gassaway, president of Heidt Design.
UltraFi currently can be found in three residential neighborhoods built by Metro Development Group including Union Park in Wesley Chapel. Two others – Park Creek and Waterleaf – are in Hillsborough County.
But, Pasco will be the first community in the nation with technology central to site plans from the start, not simply an add-on amenity.
The company currently is developing Park Place, a master-planned community in Wesley Chapel on the former Epperson Ranch property. A 7-acre man-made swimming pool, known as a crystal lagoon, will be the centerpiece.
Metro Development Group plans a mixed-used development with a business incubator, offices and residential.
Mirada is another of the company’s projects on the former Cannon Ranch.
Pasco is uniquely positioned to foster the connected-city corridor concept, according to William Wallace, executive director of US Ignite, a nonprofit under the umbrella of the National Science Foundation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
He announced at the workshop that Pasco’s application to join the national Tech Hire Initiative had been approved, and would open up opportunities for the county to apply for $100 million in federal grants.
Pasco is one of about 40 national participants, and the only county in the group.
The Tech Hire program encourages non-traditional opportunities, such as technology boot camps, that offer faster training and new, higher paying jobs for people in the technology industry.
“It takes a leap of faith,” Wallace said. “It seems like you have taken that leap of faith.”
Gassaway went so far as to suggest that Pasco’s reputation as a bedroom community that supplies workers to other counties could change over time.
“Pasco might be the destination for people to come to work,” he said. “That’s amazing.”
Published December 16, 2015