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Calusa Trace residents warily watch Wal-Mart

Development at Veterans Expressway and N Dale Mabry Highway is being discussed.

By BILL COATS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 28, 2002


LUTZ -- A Wal-Mart Supercenter may be coming to the intersection of N Dale Mabry Highway and the Veterans Expressway.

Consultants recently met with a Hillsborough County transportation planner about the prospects for a store on the east side of Dale Mabry, said Tom Thomson, director of the county's transportation planning division.

Peter Geraci, who owns the property with his brother Nick, referred questions to Commercial Development Associates, a local company that does work for Wal-Mart. Paul Schertz, a partner there, referred questions to Wal-Mart. However, Joel Tew, one of the Geraci lawyers, described a land contract in a meeting with planners and civic leaders in the area, according to Thomson and Gerry Reno, president of the Calusa Trace Master Association. Several people promptly asked "Wal-Mart?" but Tew would not elaborate, Reno said.

A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores said nothing is planned in Lutz.

"There's a lot of people out there that look at land for us," said Daphne Davis Moore, the chain's community affairs manager. "That doesn't mean one way or another that we'll build a store."

Thomson and his staff have been meeting recently with developers, Reno and state transportation planners about development prospects on a square mile of largely agricultural property at the northeast corner of Dale Mabry and Van Dyke roads.

Reno and other Calusa Trace civic leaders fear that preliminary road plans on the property will turn Calusa Trace Boulevard into a bypass around Van Dyke's clogged approach to Dale Mabry, bringing rush-hour traffic past Schwarzkopf Elementary School and a community park.

The land's development plans include a 144-acre campus for Idlewild Baptist Church, focused near the northwestern bank of Lake Reinheimer. Idlewild plans to break ground this year. Northwest of there, land was rezoned last October for 650 apartments.

The 300 acres closest to Van Dyke and Dale Mabry remain zoned for large-lot homes. But that's a false indicator of the land's future. Hillsborough County's long-range plans have projected for nearly a decade that the tract can be rezoned for millions of square feet in offices, and store space equivalent to half a shopping mall.

-- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or coats@sptimes.com.

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