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Home building still strong

Central Pasco is the place to be for builders these days.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003

In what Pasco County industry has output doubled in the past five years?

Forget orange juice, the Internet and health care. The answer is housing construction.

Put off by Pinellas County's crowding and Hillsborough County's higher land prices, home buyers continue to flock to Pasco.

Builders are here to meet the demand. The county issued 4,786 permits for single-family homes in 2002. That comes from the county's central permitting office.

That figure is a leap of 24 percent over the 3,859 permits in 2001 and double the number of just five years ago.

2002 saw the second highest home total in the county's history. Construction peaked at 4,826 in 1978, but most of the building then occurred in west Pasco along U.S. 19.

The west is no longer the best. Most of the hammering and back-hoeing is happening in central Pasco these days.

The Meadow Pointe community in Wesley Chapel, developed by Devco Development Corp., racked up the highest housing totals, measured in number of closings.

Meadow Pointe tallied 412 closings through November. Lexington Oaks, Pulte Home Corp.'s golf course community in Wesley Chapel, came in second with 339 closings.

The Trinity communities in southwest Pasco had about 200 closings. Home totals in neighboring Heritage Springs, a US Home Corp. project, were just shy of 200.

Another Devco project, Oakstead, is the first large housing development on a 5-mile stretch of SR 54 that has become a popular home buyer center since the opening of the Suncoast Parkway two years ago. Oakstead triumphed with 261 closings.

In all, closings totaled 4,233 through November, a spike of 36 percent over the 3,114 closings counted in the same 11 months in 2001.

Several factors are driving the growth. Interest rates are low, and the region hasn't suffered the economic slowdown hurting other parts of the country.

Pasco promises better housing value for the dollar, lower taxes and an easy commute to jobs in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

What's going to happen in the next year? For starters, Terrabrook Inc. plans to start construction on the first of nearly 9,000 homes in Connerton New Town Development east of U.S. 41 in Land O'Lakes.

After getting under way in 2002, the Seven Oaks development in Wesley Chapel, between Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Interstate 75, should see an upsurge, working steadily toward its ultimate buildout of 4,000 homes.

The same destiny beckons for New River Township, another several-thousand-home project, on SR 54 between Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills.

And near Oakstead on SR 54 in Land O'Lakes, a slew of new developments, led by Suncoast Crossings and U.S. Home Corp.'s Heritage Trace, should get up and going.

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