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New city looking for its name

Most everyone knows about the vast swath of Pasco and Hillsborough counties where houses and businesses are mushrooming. But what's it called?

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 10, 2003

LAND O'LAKES -- In 1959, developer Matt Jetton started his dream project in the horseback-riding and citrus-growing country north of Tampa.

He called it Carrollwood, after Lake Carroll, and inadvertently lit a fuse that would lead to the explosive growth of a community that borrowed the name of Jetton's original development.

The development-driven Carrollwood concept is due for a repeat in Pasco County, where the Suncoast Parkway has sparked plans for a list of new planned communities promising thousands of homes.

The names of various developments proposed near the toll road say it all: Suncoast Crossings, Suncoast Centre, Suncoast Meadows, Suncoast Pointe, Suncoast Estates.

Some developers assume the infant community taking shape around the parkway will seize its own identity rather than adopt the name of its long-established neighbors, Land O'Lakes and Odessa.

Is a "Suncoast City" in the future? Don't rule it out.

"It's an entire new city in its own right," said Lance Ponton, whose new Suncoast Pointe project envisions 330 homes on a horse farm on State Road 54. "Let's face it, there's thousand of acres of new product coming on line."

The product won't all be houses. Across the street from Ponton's development, at the interchange of SR 54 and the parkway, Suncoast Crossings promises an enticingly landscaped corporate park of more than 1-million square feet.

A couple of miles to the east, the Geraci brothers' Long Lake Ranch project touts a shopping complex big enough for a mall. For commuting ease, road crews are ripping up pasture and forest for an upcoming widening of SR 54 from two to four lanes.

The key, of course, is the Suncoast Parkway, the 42-mile toll road that opened two years ago.

It connects what was once relatively isolated farm land in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties with Tampa International Airport, Tampa's Westshore business district and other destinations.

"This whole area will have its own office projects right across the street. There's going to be retail here. There's going to be town houses, apartments," Ponton said. "None of those things existed before."

Jetton's original Carrollwood development, east of Dale Mabry Highway in northwest Hillsborough County, is known today as Old Carrollwood to distinguish it from the community at large.

It was so successful it was named U.S. Subdivision of the Year by the National Association of Home Builders in 1961.

Jetton followed up with another neighborhood called Carrollwood Village. Since then, other planned communities and shopping centers latched onto the Carrollwood trademark.

Carrollwood today counts 36,000 residents, tens of thousands more if you add surrounding communities such as Northdale. At least 200 businesses call the community home.

Most of the orange trees have been squeezed out. Squirrels are lucky to scurry across eight lanes of Dale Mabry Highway.

Based on his reading of Carrollwood, developer Don Buck suggests a better name for the burgeoning Suncoast Parkway community in Pasco: Oakstead.

Not coincidentally, Oakstead is the 1,200-home community Buck is captaining north of SR 54. It's the first development to break ground among a crop of projects east of the parkway predicted to total more than 8,000 homes.

"Most of the time the name comes from the first large community to come in," Buck said, pointing to Town 'N Country in Hillsborough County.

As for the name Suncoast City, it wouldn't get his vote. It sounds too much like "Suitcase City," a pejorative term some use to describe the low-rent enclave near the University of South Florida, he said.

"It doesn't matter to me. I think Land O'Lakes, other than sounding like butter, is a good name," Buck said.

Regardless, Ponton suspects Suncoast City, or whatever name the community will adopt, will grow even faster than Carrollwood.

It's in the country, slightly out of the way, but close enough to the jobs in Tampa. Because of its lower taxes and cheaper land, Pasco generally offers more house for the buck.

After Carrollwood planted its first homes, aspiring suburbanites trekked up and down a Dale Mabry Highway that wasn't ready for prime time. Pasco starts out with a superhighway already in place.

"People want to live here," Ponton said of the Suncoast corridor in Pasco. "Carrollwood started out, like we are now, in the middle of a cow pasture."

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