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Chambers vie to court new mall

At least two chambers of commerce have their eyes on a proposed shopping mall at I-75 and SR 56.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 22, 2002


Will the new Interstate 75 mall proposed by billionaire developer Edward DeBartolo Jr. belong to Land O'Lakes or Wesley Chapel?

It could make a difference in whether the mall -- if it's actually built in the next three to five years -- is claimed by the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce or the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce.

The Central Pasco Chamber, based in Land O'Lakes, has made the first move. It recently broached the subject of inviting DeBartolo's representatives to a chamber function early next year. Mall developers have yet to accept.

The stakes are high. As central Pasco County's first megamall, Cypress Creek Town Centre could have more than 100 stores on the southwest corner of I-75 and State Road 56. If it's built true to plan at 1.3-million square feet, the shopping complex would be among the biggest in the region.

Enrolling mall stores would generously enlarge memberships at the two chambers. The larger and older Central Pasco chamber has about 450 members. Wesley Chapel's chamber, formed in 1998, has about 255 members.

As a group, the Wesley Chapel chamber's board of directors has yet to discuss courting mall developer DeBartolo Property Group, board member Russ Miller said last week.

"We haven't thought that far ahead since it's still pie in the sky," Miller said.

But with such a big fish lurking in a mutually accessible pond, both Miller and Central Pasco chamber board member Tim Hayes suggest the chambers cooperate rather than compete.

Hayes said Land O'Lakes business people discussed whether to go after the new SuperTarget that opened at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and County Line Road in March. That's clearly Wesley Chapel territory.

Chamber leaders rejected such a move as small-minded, Hayes said. As unincorporated communities, Land O'Lakes and Wesley Chapel have poorly defined boundaries.

But as you drive along SR 56, the rough border between the two communities is I-75. Based on that geography, Land O'Lakes has a claim upon the mall.

Both chambers are toying with creating dual memberships. A possible third partner is the Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce, Miller said.

"I think there's enough to go around for everyone," he said. "When the mall becomes a reality, it's an issue all three chambers should think about."

-- James Thorner covers growth and development in Pasco County. He can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or thorner@sptimes.com.

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