Since the outset of the development of Wiregrass Ranch, the Porter family has used a patient approach to assembling the building blocks of a community.
Over time, land once occupied by cattle and orange groves has been transformed.
Developments including The Shops at Wiregrass, Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, Pasco-Hernando State College’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch, North Tampa Bay Behavioral Health Hospital, Beach House Assisted Living & Memory Care at Wiregrass, and public schools, subdivisions and apartments are just some of the projects that have popped out of the landscape.
And, there’s more to come, J.D. Porter told a crowd at the North Tampa Bay Chamber’s April economic briefing at Hunter’s Green Golf & Country Club.
“The demographic that is moving into the area right now is younger, dual income, dual college education,” Porter said.
That lends itself to high-quality housing, upscale restaurants, specialty grocers and other sought-after development, he said.
The Porter family is choosy about the types of new projects it brings into Wiregrass, to protect the quality of the development, he said.
“There are users out there that aren’t a good fit for Wiregrass,” Porter explained.
And, even when a project is a good match for Wiregrass, the family paces the development to make sure that ongoing projects can be successful before introducing new ones.
Porter takes particular pride in the area’s job creation.
“Right now there are 2,500 jobs that have been created,” Porter said. “We’ve created more jobs than we have homes.”
That’s a statistic that would be hard to match in other Pasco or Hillsborough developments, Porter said.
He also noted that it’s important to have a mix of large and small users, so there’s not too much reliance on large users — in case they go away.
Having the proper mix of development is important, too, he said.
“It’s nice to have boutique restaurants, shops, locally owned businesses and stuff like that. To make that work, you have to have people around it, and you have to have people around that during the day,” he said.
The family envisions a town center, with increased residential density, as it gets closer to the town center, Porter said.
The town center — which would be a walkable Wesley Chapel downtown — will include retail, office space, residential, a school, light rail or bus rapid transit stops, a park and ride, a hotel, a fire station, a sheriff’s office, an indoor sports facility, playgrounds, a walking trail, a hotel, a county office building and other amenities, according to the Wiregrass Ranch website.
Porter also addressed the big user side of development, during the economic briefing.
Wiregrass Ranch is “currently shortlisted for two Fortune 200 companies. One for 600,000; one for 1.2 million square feet,” Porter said. “It’d be nice to have another big one. Both of them are ranked higher than what Raymond James is, on the Fortune 500 list.”
Raymond James, which has long been expected to have an office park in the Wiregrass Ranch development “will be turning dirt before the end of the year,” Porter said, in response to a question from the audience. “They’re going to be taking steps towards getting site-ready for construction.”
He also offered his thoughts on some transportation issues.
The diverging diamond, a project to retrofit the Interstate 75-State Road 56 interchange, should help, Porter said.
“The upside is, it really will help that traffic problem quite a bit,” he said. But, he predicts there will be accidents, and even deaths, as people learn to negotiate it.
The $40 million diverging diamond project is expected to begin this summer and could take two years to three years to complete, according to officials with the Florida Department of Transportation.
Porter also predicted that rapid bus transit is more likely to happen than light rail, and noted that Wiregrass Ranch already has 3 ½ miles to 4 miles dedicated for either option.
In general, Porter said, “you have got to have good connectivity on roadways, regardless where they’re at.”
Published May 2, 2018