Subdivisions act as catalyst for growth
By DAN DeWITT
For more than three decades, Brooksville stood by while most developers bypassed it for opportunities on the west side of the county.
That, it seems, is on the verge of changing.
Brooksville, and the area surrounding it, is beginning a growth spurt that seems likely to last for several years.
"We're going to have the growth here," said Brooksville real estate agent Jack Gavish. "It's going to happen because we have what people want, and there is still some vacant commercial property."
Gavish said the population gains in and around Brooksville probably will not rival those on the west side of the county. And the development may come more slowly than some people are predicting because the planned subdivisions will take several years to fully develop.
Also, some areas around the city are zoned for agricultural use and will likely continue to see low-density development.
Still, Gavish said, the city will inevitably grow, if for no other reason than the large subdivisions already in the works.
Hernando Oaks, a 975-unit development that is the largest to open in the county in a decade, is just beginning to sell homes. Though not in the city, it is only a few miles south on newly widened U.S. 41, and its residents will certainly depend on Brooksville's commercial district, said Bill Geiger, the city's community development director.
Southern Hills Plantation, which could have as many as 3,000 homes on 1,600 acres, is expected to become part of Brooksville. Its residents, likewise, will shop in Brooksville, Geiger said.
Tommy Bronson, a former mining executive and developer, announced plans to build as many as 1,000 homes on land he owns east of Brooksville's city limits.
Because the homes in all of these subdivisions are expected to be far more expensive than most currently in the city, they bring the prospect of relatively wealthy shoppers, Geiger said.
That, in turn, should spur commercial development designed to target them, Geiger said.
"We would expect that we would have a higher-end commercial development to cater to these customers," he said.
The city has already seen some commercial activity. A Wal-Mart Supercenter opened on U.S. 41, south of the State Road 50 truck bypass, late last year. Lowe's has talked to the city about building a store just south of the supercenter. Geiger said Walgreen Co. has plans to build a drugstore on the current site occupied by the County Kitchen restaurant at U.S. 41 and the bypass.
Country Kitchen is interested in moving to the site formerly occupied by Denny's restaurant on the other side of the truck bypass, Geiger said.
All of this development has been encouraged by recent road construction, developers have said, including the widening of U.S. 41 and the truck bypass and the completion in 2001 of the Suncoast Parkway.
Not all of the commercial activity will be along the corridor on the southern edge of town. Downtown could also see a rebirth, with more well-heeled customers and about $800,000 worth of improvements paid for by the city and with state grants. Sidewalks are being improved and beautified, old utility lines are being buried, and extensions of the sidewalks into the busy streets will slow car traffic and, hopefully, discourage large trucks from passing through the city.
The downtown improvements are expected to be completed in March.
"The whole intention is to address safety and aesthetics for pedestrians," Geiger said. "I think it's going to be a great spur."
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