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Gigantic office complex proposed

A former surgeon plans a complex at the Suncoast Parkway and SR 54 with more than 1-million square-feet of offices.

Published April 6, 2005

LAND O'LAKES - With hopes of drawing hundreds of professional jobs to Pasco County, a Clearwater developer plans to build a giant office park at the Suncoast Parkway and State Road 54.

JES Properties Inc. is under contract to buy about 260 acres on the northeast corner of the intersection. About 1.2-million square-feet of offices would dominate the project, called Ashley Glen.

For comparison's sake, downtown Tampa's tallest office building, a 42-story tower at 100 N Tampa St., offers 552,080 square-feet, only half of what Ashley Glen proposes.

Rounding out the site would be 340,000 square-feet of retail and 800 townhomes and duplexes.

In an earlier incarnation of Ashley Glen, Westfield Homes planned to build 800 homes. County Administrator John Gallagher dubbed it a waste of prime land.

Why build only homes at the intersection of a multicounty toll road and Pasco's busiest east-west highway?

Gallagher pointed to the North Pointe office park across the way on the southeast corner of SR 54 and the parkway. It's approved for the same amount of office space as that sought by Ashley Glen.

North Pointe's first large tenant, a flight simulator company called Opinicus, is building a $2.5-million complex there that could employ more than 200.

Westfield and Gallagher suggested the office park idea to JES Properties president Doug Weiland, a former Pinellas County spinal surgeon who left medicine to be a developer.

"That intersection is one of the hottest intersections in Pasco County," Weiland said. "Look at all the rooftops. Eventually people will live there and that's going to drive commercial and office."

Weiland wants to expand the project to include about 100 acres owned by the family of Land O'Lakes veterinarian Octavio Blanco. Dr. Blanco's land is sandwiched between Weiland's and the toll road.

Blanco hasn't ruled out selling. He's one of the last property owners along that section of SR 54 to resist the millions of dollars dangled by developers.

But he wants assurances from Weiland that developers won't obliterate wetlands and creeks on his property that feed the Anclote River.

"We've talked about putting the two properties together but the stumbling block has been environmental," Blanco said.

Blanco insists that the intersection, the gateway to Pasco County from points south, is ideal for a "big player" along the lines of a Fortune 500 company.

"My whole idea is to go for a big company instead of a lot of small offices," he said.

Patience is in order. As a "development of regional impact," Weiland's plans will undergo at least two years of governmental review. The proposed completion date of the office parks and other development is 2015.

[Last modified April 6, 2005, 01:07:18]

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