Exploding East Pasco: the Good, the Bad and the Opportunity
The Central Pasco Association of Realtors (CPAR) conducted a tour of central and east Pasco County entitled Tour de Change on June 7, emphasizing major developments happening in this growing area of Florida’s Nature Coast. This week I want to share with you what we saw.
The tour began with a large group meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn for coffee before boarding our motor coach. There were realtors, economic development professionals, development professionals and a variety of interested parties – a nice mixed group – that gathered to see what’s happening in Lutz, Land O’Lakes, Dade City, Saint Leo, and Wesley Chapel. And Mayor Camille Hernandez of Dade City.
Jawana Williams, Vice President of Pasco County Economic Development, spoke to us first, welcoming us to the area, providing highlights of the Department’s accomplishments, and offering any help the EDC could provide to us. Juwana was named one of the top 50 Economic Developers in 2017.
We began our tour at the Bexley Ranch development by Newland Communities. Jessica Robinson, Marketing Coordinator for Bexley, hopped on our bus and guided our tour of this expansive development. Bexley Ranch is master planned to provide a community where you can stay throughout the stages of American life. There are playgrounds, trails and bike paths, schools, hospitals, senior care facilities, and a central clubhouse with café and bike shop. This development is planned to connect from State Road 54 to State Road 52 and from the Suncoast Parkway to US 41.
We ventured to a new 270,000 square foot office and manufacturing space, housing four business units and employing up to 500 people for the Product Inspection Group of METTLER TOLEDO. It recently opened its doors at 1571 Northpointe Pkwy in Lutz, and is the largest manufacturer of product inspection systems for the food and pharmaceutical industries. They are hiring.
We drove through the Compark 75 Business Park, which was built completely on spec by auto magnate Larry Morgan and offers about 700,000 square feet of vertical space on 60 acres of land that has flexible zoning and is adjacent to I-75, equidistance between State Road 54 and State Road 56. Four buildings are completed and fully occupied. The fifth is 13,500 sf with 1,575 sf office available for immediate occupancy. Ten years ago, this was lowland pasture.
We drove by the Tampa North Aeropark, a 21-acre airport that is for sale by CBRE. The airport primarily accommodates corporate jets and flight schools.
Then off to Florida Hospital Center Ice for a tour and lunch. The Center Ice complex is world-class; the largest hockey complex in the southeast U.S., with an Olympic-sized rink, three NHL-sized rinks and one junior rink under one roof. Several of their ice rinks convert to dry floors accommodating basketball, soccer, lacrosse, volleyball and events.
The Center Ice complex offers public skating and lessons, hockey leagues and lessons for all ages, summer camps, curling, birthday parties and corporate events, and a serious workout facility. It was amazing!
Lunch was at the Top Shelf Sports Lounge with some mojo pork sandwiches, the restaurant’s Power Play salad, and cilantro rice and beans. The food was excellent and watching professional skaters practice triple spins from the second story restaurant added to the experience. The menu is reasonable, with burgers, salads, sandwiches and bowls ranging from $10-15.
Saint Leo University was our next stop. This private, Catholic university was founded in 1889 and opened its doors in 1890. It is a liberal arts college that welcomes students of all faiths and is a teaching college (as opposed to a research college). We were greeted by Dr. Melanie Storms, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations, and two energetic students.
Saint Leo’s beautiful campus features rolling hills, several new buildings, statues and student amenities. We strolled through campus, stopping to see the small classrooms, the Energypod sleep chairs, and the beautiful saltwater aquarium that was featured on television. We met the President of the University, Dr. Jeffrey Senese, and enjoyed the University’s serene environment.
As we boarded our coach, two Dade City police cars arrived.
Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez arranged for a police escort of the City and its offerings. County Commissioner, Ron Oakley welcomed us.
We toured the Dade City Business Center, once the largest citrus juice processing plant in the world, and employing 2,000 workers. When Jim Guedry, purchased the property in 2005, it was in rough shape. The entrepreneur had its historic water tower restored, moved his business in and began leasing industrial and office space.
Today there is an onsite water utility and water treatment plant, rail access and 24-hour security. The stark utilitarian architecture and industrial feel was quite a contrast with the quaint, historic ambiance of historic courthouse square with its small shops, historic homes and Woman’s Club.
We ventured to the Epperson Crystal Lagoons Metro Development. A seven-acre crystal lagoon, surrounded by a beach and featuring shark-free swimming and rentals at the clubhouse is part of the Epperson Ranch development at Curley and Overpass Roads. Part of the Connected City program, whereby a super highspeed internet is available to residents, schools and businesses, Epperson is generating a lot of excitement and has a waiting list for homebuyers.
We returned to the Hilton Garden Inn for a social mixer, complete with delicious appetizers, dessert options and a drink for everyone who participated in the tour. This hotel at 2155 Northpointe Pkwy in Lutz is gorgeous – its got that new, “we’re what’s happening” vibe about it and the staff was friendly and accommodating.
Everyone was abuzz about the exploding growth in the area. Some are sad to see the ranches converted to super communities. Others are looking at how nice it is to see good paying jobs come to the area. Always there is a trade off with development. In the Nature Coast, we still have a lot of wilderness to roam, but in central and southeast Pasco County, exciting change is on the move.