Business in Pasco County is coming back to life as residents, weary of a pandemic-enforced lockdown, venture back to the world of shopping and dining.
There are hopeful signs for commercial rebirth.
Neon “open” signs are visible in storefronts.
Banners planted at the roadside’s edge wave at passing motorists.
Parking lots at malls and shopping centers are filling up again.
But, it’s not just the established businesses that are reviving Pasco’s economy. Business owners and developers continue to invest in new retail especially along one of the county’s busiest east/west corridors – State Road 54 and State Road 56.
On State Road 54, west of U.S. 41, The Preserve Marketplace and two retail centers at Starkey Ranch are adding shops, restaurants, health care services, and offices.
At Bexley Ranch, in Land O’ Lakes, land is being cleared and leveled on Lot A for the Bexley South Office Park, off Bexley Village Drive, near Springhill Suites.
A Crunch Fitness is scheduled to open Aug. 25, off State Road 54 in Trinity.
Meanwhile, on the State Road 54/56 corridor east of U.S. 41, there are new developments, too.
Near the juncture of State Road 56 and Interstate 75, a banner announces that Tidal Wave Auto Spa is coming to an outparcel at Tampa Premium Outlets.
In the same general area, Main Event, a 50,000-square-foot entertainment venue, celebrated its grand opening less than two weeks ago.
And, another Crunch Fitness is planning to open in October in the old Winn-Dixie location, off Collier Parkway and State Road 54, in Land O’ Lakes.
The Collier Parkway location is a great choice for a fitness gym because it’s along a high traffic corridor, said Geoff Dyer, president of Crunch Fitness. “It’s in the heart of the (Land O’ Lakes) neighborhood,” he said.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, work continued on the Trinity and Land O’ Lakes locations, Dyer said, adding, “for all intents and purposes, we haven’t seen any slow-down in our developments.”
He noted that Crunch Fitness gyms shut down for about two months at the start of the pandemic, but now the gyms are open and adhering to safety guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Membership has returned to about 95% of what it was pre-shutdown,” Dyer said.
While activity, in general, appears to be picking up and new construction continues to kick up dirt — a cloud hovers over business decisions due to the uncertain nature of COVID-19.
Ralph Santell and his family moved to Starkey Ranch and began plans to open Santelli Pizza & Pasta nearly three years ago. They saw the growth happening in Pasco.
His storefront is at Starkey Ranch Town Square, a plaza located at State Road 54 and Gunn Highway. A few tenants in the center, including J. Joseph Salon, are open.
Santell plans to open by September, possibly with outdoor dining and takeout. He said he’ll decide closer to opening whether he’ll initially offer indoor dining.
“That (COVID-19) has been an extra challenge that influences things on a daily basis,” Santell said. “It’s been hard to navigate the whole COVID-19 situation. We take it one day at a time.”
Santell also owns a restaurant in the Westchase subdivision in Hillsborough County. That restaurant closed, then reopened, but is now closed again — except for takeout.
Another Starkey Ranch retail center at State Road 54 and Heart Pine Avenue – Starkey Ranch Business Park – also has a roster of tenants slated to open, including The Wicked Pour, Tropical Smoothie Café and Hungry Greek.
The pandemic slowed opening plans, but construction on the retail park is nearly finished.
“All of these are coming along,” said Matt Call, project director for Starkey Ranch. “With COVID-19, things take a bit longer.”
Additional outparcels at both retail centers are available for development — though it could take longer to get projects going, Call added.
Typically, residential construction is a key to spurring on new retail, Call said.
He said Starkey Ranch and Bexley by Newland are the top residential sellers in the Tampa Bay area. Together, they add about 800 residential units annually to Pasco, he said.
Pasco also is on an apartment building spree with about nine complexes planned or under construction.
Near the Tampa Premium Outlets and Cypress Creek Town Center, Brightwork Crossing apartment complex is attracting new renters to the commercial epicenter of the Wesley Chapel area.
Two Altis apartment complexes, one by Wiregrass Ranch on State Road 56 and a second on South Branch Boulevard at Starkey Ranch, are adding to Pasco tenant population.
Bainbridge Sunlake is an upscale apartment complex being built at State Road 54, and Mentmore Boulevard, next to The Shoppes at Sunlake Centre.
A new standalone Starbucks is coming soon to the Sunlake shopping center, as well.
Retail developments, including The Preserve Marketplace, are adding new tenants, including the recently opened anchor store – Greenwise. Majik Touch Cleaners is open, too.
Other tenants with plans to open include Chipotle, Heartland Dental and CVS Pharmacy.
“It’s going to be a cool little plaza when it’s done,” Call said. “I think Pasco is going to continue to grow. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
What’s happening along State Road 54
Here are some of the office, retail or residential developments that have opened or are in progress along State Road 54.
The Preserve Marketplace (State Road 54 and the Suncoast Parkway)
- Greenwise Market, owned by Publix, is a specialty grocery store offering an array of organic and natural food products.
- TouchPoint Medical manufactures medical dispensing equipment, including high-tech carts.
- Organic Nails offers nail art and design services.
- Heartland Dental provides administrative support and career development services among a network of dental partnerships
- CVS Pharmacy is a national chain of drugstores.
- Majik Touch Cleaners provides laundry and dry-cleaning services in Pasco and the Tampa Bay area.
- Sport Clips provides haircuts for men and boys.
- Panera Bread is a national chain that serves sandwiches, salads and pastries.
- Chipotle Mexican Grill is a national chain restaurant serving made-to-order burritos, tacos, wraps and salads.
Starkey Ranch Business Park (State Road 54 and Heart Pine Avenue)
- The Wicked Pour is a craft beer, wine and taproom with board games, giant Jenga and cornhole.
- Hungry Greek is a casual restaurant chain offering fast Greek food.
- Urgent Vet offers after-hours care for pet illnesses and emergencies.
- Abela Story, a women’s boutique, offers trendy styles for all tastes, and accessories.
- Encore Nail Salon provides nail art and design, and other services.
- Chase Bank is a full-service bank.
- YogaSix is a hot yoga-style studio.
Starkey Ranch Town Square (State Road 54 and Gunn Highway)
- Santelli Pizza & Pasta is a family-owned Italian restaurant with pizzas and pasta dishes.
- E sushi & Grill is a Japanese restaurant.
- J. Joseph Salon is a luxury hair salon.
- Great Clips is a discount, walk-in hair salon.
- Quality Plus Cleaners provides laundry and dry-cleaning services.
- The UPS Store offers mailing, printing and mailbox services.
- A dental office, which has not yet been identified, is on the outparcel across from Santelli Pizza.
Published July 29, 2020