J.D. Porter said he knows there are a lot of people who doubt that Raymond James will ever have a location in the Wiregrass Ranch community of Wesley Chapel.
And, he said he knows that the decision by T. Rowe Price not to locate in Pasco County has helped to fuel those speculations.
But, at a March 10 meeting of the Pasco Alliance of Community Associations in Land O’ Lakes, Porter told the crowd: “I’ll tell you straight up, let’s dispel the myth right now: Is it going to happen? Are they going to close?
“It’s going to happen. Raymond James will close,” said Porter, whose family owns the sprawling Wiregrass Ranch, which includes thousands of acres of ranch land and citrus groves.
Porter expects Raymond James to get their permits within the next 45 days or so, and that will trigger closing within 30 days of that, he said.
“Once they close, you’ll start seeing dirt being moved to the site,” Porter said.
“It’s exciting. Right now, they’re in for permitting for a million square feet,” he said, estimating that the site will be occupied by 4,000 to 5,000 employees.
“I imagine we’ll have even more interest on the office side, once Raymond James closes,” Porter said.
“We’re currently talking with about four other office users that are Fortune 250 companies, anywhere from 400,000 square feet to another 1.2 million square feet of office,” said Porter, whose family has already sold the land now occupied by The Shops at Wiregrass and Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, and donated 65 acres for Pasco-Hernando State College’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch.
Porter is also enthused about progress being made for a performing arts center on the state college’s campus. The project received $15. 5 million in funding last year from the Florida Legislature and there’s $11 million earmarked for the project in this session’s proposed budget.
It could be vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott, but Porter doesn’t think it will be. If that money comes through, about half of the funding needed for the first phase of the project would be available, he said.
Porter envisions a facility that can seat between 5,000 and 8,000 people and could be a venue for plays, concerts, graduations and other events.
With the performing arts center, Pasco County high school students would be able to have their graduation ceremonies within the county instead of having to use venues elsewhere, Porter said.
He also talked about other projects that are under way or being planned in the Wiregrass Ranch development. Those include high-end apartments, a hotel, an assisted living facility and a specialty grocer, although he didn’t name which one.
Porter said his family entertains many proposals coming from people who want to open restaurants, gas stations and other uses.
The area’s demographics are enticing, Porter noted.
“You’ve got a median age that’s about seven years younger than the Florida average and about 11 years younger than the national average. You’ve got a median income that’s about $11,000 more than what the national average is and about $14,000 to $17,000 more than what the Florida average is,” he said.
When the family sells land, it’s more interested in how the sale affects the overall quality of the community than whether they can get top dollar, Porter said
The specialty grocery store is an example of this, he said.
“We’re going to take a price hit on that,” Porter said. “But, I think it’s something that will have value. I think it is something that will flourish within the community.”
“You can’t play the short game. You’ve got to play the long game,” he said.
Published March 16, 2016