The signs sprouting along U.S. 41 — which is also known as Land O’ Lakes Boulevard — are an indication that new development is beginning to take root, on the main artery through Land O’ Lakes and Lutz.
New restaurants, a car wash and gas stations are coming. A new coffeehouse and meat shop have opened. A medical center and other developments, are planned, too.
None of this is on the same grand scale of the Tampa Premium Outlets or the Cypress Creek Town Center along State Road 56, but something is happening along Land O’ Lakes Boulevard that hasn’t happened in years.
New businesses are taking a chance on a long overlooked, heavily traveled highway.
“This is great,” said Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore, whose district includes Land O’ Lakes. “As they have begun filling up along State Road 54/56, you’re seeing more happening along U.S. 41.”
Much of the new activity on Land O’ Lakes Boulevard extends from Bell Lake Road north toward State Road 52 and a nearly $50 million highway project that passes through Gowers Corner at U.S. 41.
For sale signs are plentiful, sites have been cleared and construction is underway — conveying a sense that new commercial projects are on the way, or could be coming soon.
A new Circle K gas station and convenience store is in the works at 7767 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., according to county records.
The project is being built by Frontier Building, according to a news release from that company, and the Circle K is expected to open in July.
Redstone Commercial is marketing more open land next to the Circle K.
Zaxby’s and Vortex carwash are planned for a location at U.S. 41 and Wilderness Lake Boulevard, according to posted signs and county records.
A 7-Eleven is anticipated at Bell Lake Road, along with another 7-Eleven at 9077 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., near the Tierra Del Sol subdivision, county records show.
Ps & Qs will be fluffing and styling pets from a new doggie day and boarding facility planned for 7495 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., near the community of Connerton.
Heights Meat Market, a longtime presence in the Tampa neighborhood of Seminole Heights, is operating at a small plaza at 5132 Land O’ Lakes Blvd. It opened in early 2020.
Aroma Joe’s coffeehouse is serving java, breakfast and sandwiches in a shop by the Preserve at Lake Wilderness.
A new restaurant is expected to open at 4422 Land O’ Lakes Blvd, the site previously occupied briefly by Mosquito Bar & Grill and before that by Rapscallions, a popular meeting place.
No details are yet available regarding what the new restaurant will look like, or the type of cuisine it will serve.
The old restaurant structure has fallen into disrepair, after its closure in 2013.
Longtime Land O’ Lakes resident Sandy Graves remembers how popular Rapscallions was, especially among nearby Bell Lake residents.
Graves is pleased to see some new development and redevelopment along Land O’ Lakes Boulevard.
“It’s nice to see any kind of progress,” Graves said. “I’d love to see more. It’s nice to see a new restaurant.”
There’s definitely room for improvement, she added, noting there’s still a lot of Land O’ Lakes that looks “stuck in the ’60s.”
Graves looks forward to bicycle trails being built in the future that follow along the old railroad tracks. And the completion of the Ridge Road extension, which will emerge at U.S. 41 across from Connerton, also could help, she said.
“It will be a lot easier going east and west in the county. I think things are looking up for Land O’ Lakes, which extends to the outlet mall.”
Graves sees positive changes along the northern corridor at the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
County officials and officials from Pasco County Economic Development Council Inc., previously have touted potential economic investment in the area that is likely to result from the development of the K9 Tactical Center/Florida’s Forensic Institute for Research, Security, and Tactics, or F.I.R.S.T., and the Adam Kennedy Memorial Forensics Fields, also known as the body farm.
These facilities are expected to attract forensics-related businesses and organizations, as well as national and international visitors to forensics conferences.
Road improvements on a northern segment of U.S. 41, plus substantial improvements along State Road 52, also are expected to support new development efforts.
And, the development of the Angeline community — along with a planned Pasco County campus of Moffitt Research Center — are expected to have a significant economic impact in Land O’ Lakes.
County records show developers are getting ready for what comes once the roadwork is finished.
Five years ago, the Tibbetts family rezoned its property at the southwest corner of Gowers Corner for residential and commercial development. No projects are announced as yet.
On property adjacent to the Tibbetts’ parcels, county records show Sandridge Commercial LLC applied for a “mass grading” permit to level and prep a large swath of land for an unidentified project.
Gowers Corner and U.S. 41 are on the development radar.
Meanwhile, the signs of new development on U.S. 41 are much less obvious south of Bell Lake.
O’Reilly Auto Parts has opened a store at 3600 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., and the Walmart Supercenter, at 1575 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., is opening a fueling station.
Businesses along the southern end of Land O’ Lakes struggle to redevelop properties after a road widening years ago that chopped off frontage, Graves said.
The county may need to consider overlay districts at locations along U.S. 41, to foster redevelopment efforts, she said.
By Kathy Steele
Published March 10, 2021