A year of paving, building, more developing
By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
The dam broke with SuperTarget.
Once upon a time, Wesley Chapel meant cows nibbling grass near cypress swamps. Its main artery, Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, was the aptly named Road to Nowhere.
But the super store opening in March, the Target chain's first in the Tampa Bay area, signaled the end to anything rural that couldn't co-exist with the suburban.
From now on, Wesley Chapel is New Tampa and New Tampa is Wesley Chapel. Take a peek into the near future and you'll see all the ingredients for a New Tampa-style commercial takeover are there:
The year 2002 brought news of a 300-bed hospital, several strip malls, apartment complexes, a million-square-foot mall at Interstate 75 and State Road 56 and a massive auto bazaar at I-75 and State Road 54.
All capped by a proposed $5.7-million public tennis stadium owned by Pasco County and run by Saddlebrook Resort.
Land O'Lakes, although developing less dramatically in 2002, isn't far behind. That community's own home explosion, focused mostly on Collier Parkway neighborhoods such as Sable Ridge, left the school district desperate for classrooms.
School officials suggested building their next elementary school in the Oakstead community northwest of SR 54 and U.S. 41. Including Oakstead, about 8,000 homes are planned in a corridor from U.S. 41 to the Suncoast Parkway.
But the school district couldn't seal a deal with developer Don Buck before its construction deadline.
So the new elementary is rising across from Pine View Middle School. That means hundreds of students attending Lake Myrtle, Denham Oaks and Sanders elementaries will get reshuffled come August.
If you exclude the construction trades, no industry is bigger in central Pasco than nudism. And 2002 didn't disappoint.
Caliente, for seven years more promise than reality, finally opened in the fall on U.S. 41 with Mediterranean-style swimming pools, a lakeside bar and tennis courts.
With projections for 350 homes and a hotel, Caliente is on its way to becoming one of the most upscale nudist resorts in North America.
Caliente's model and competitor, 20-year-old Paradise Lakes, completed 70 new condominiums southwest of SR 54 and U.S. 41. They sold out faster than a frosty Michigan couple disrobes in the Florida sun.
The state Department of Transportation has provided the much-needed grease to lubricate the machinery of development.
In March, State Road 56 opened in six-lane glory to connect Land O'Lakes, I-75 and Wesley Chapel. Now commuters could avoid the traffic-clogged SR 54 and I-75 interchange and the New Tampa section of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
A few months later, a project to widen SR 54 from Collier Parkway to SR 56 ended, instantly easing traffic tie-ups.
It wasn't until December, though, that the widening of U.S. 41, from two to six lanes, wrapped up north of Bell Lake Road.
No one was more relieved than the businesses and housing developers that struggled to peddle product amid the dirt piles and bulldozers that owned U.S. 41 for more than a year.
The past years also stood out for what didn't get done: Most of 8,000 homes sketched out between U.S. 41 and the Suncoast Parkway remained unbuilt, save for scores of new stucco spreads in the Oakstead community.
Ridge Road Extension, pitched as a desperately needed east-west road between the coast and Land O'Lakes, remained shelved pending resolution of an environmental dispute.
Connerton New Town Development plans to break ground in 2003, but last year brought confirmation that the Southwest Florida Water Management District wants to buy 3,000 of the property's 8,000 acres.
What was once billed as a city of 15,000 homes has been scaled back to a more townlike 8,700 homes. Unchanged, however, is the planned city center -- junior college campus, hospital, government buildings, stores and offices.
The developer, Terrabrook Inc., wants to model Connerton on its successful West Park Village, a similar live-work-and-shop neotraditional community in Tampa.
Often buzzing with pedestrians, West Park's downtown attracts pedestrians to a Starbucks, an antique store, a dry cleaner, a YMCA, restaurants and a pizza parlor.
What it's missing with the pizza is a bottle of wine. Dr. J. Crayton Pruitt, a wealthy St. Petersburg heart surgeon and gentleman farmer, is providing that with Florida Estates Winery, which got up and running in 2002.
Starting small north of State Road 52 as the county's first winery, Pruitt eventually plans a full bottling line and vineyards on his property.
For people who see development in central Pasco as little more than indistinguishable stucco homes and shopping strips, Pruitt's idea is something worth toasting.
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