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Business Outlook 2006

Growth boom adds more than homes

Retail, commercial and industrial properties are developed, creating more tax revenue, to keep up with residential projects.

By JONATHAN ABEL
Published February 19, 2006


Publix is moving next door. Dairy Queen is on the way in. The Citrus Service juice plant is on the way out.

Brooksville, a historic city of about 8,000 people, is readying for growth in 2006, the likes of which it has never seen.

Mayor Joe Johnston III talks excitedly about the changes afoot in the city he's lived in for a half century.

"A lot of the stuff had been real gradual and slow," Johnston said, "but now it's booming like we had always hoped."

New housing developments such as Southern Hills Plantation and Majestic Oaks will draw thousands of people. They grab most of the attention, but they're far from the only projects expected to take off this year.

Community development director Bill Geiger makes it his business to know what's being built in the city.

"Publix is taking over where the old Kmart is located," he said.

The supermarket at Cortez Boulevard and S Broad Street is planning to pick up and build on the site of the vacant discount store next door.

Geiger expects it will take Publix seven or eight months to put up its building, which will have an additional 14,000 square feet of space, according to plans.

Just up the street, a Dairy Queen is under construction at Broad Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Geiger said. It is slated to open later this year.

"What we'll see over the next few years is a pickup in overall development in the city and the fringe areas around the city," Geiger said.

It used to be that Brooksville's challenge was getting any growth at all. Now that it has some momentum, the difficulty is striking a balance among residential, commercial and industrial growth.

City Manager Richard Anderson expects residential growth to outstrip other categories, with subdivisions at Southern Hills adding 20 or 30 houses a month for the rest of the year. And the city has been approached by landowners bordering on the southeast side of the Southern Hills development about annexing into Brooksville.

Anderson thinks a number of them will end up joining the city during the next year.

"Until recently we had a fairly balanced mix," he said. "Because of the big residential subdivisions, we had to make sure we have enough zoned for commercial and industrial."

Industrial growth brings in revenue for the city; residential often does little better than break even. The city is not courting heavy industry, he said, but small factories where assembly can take place.

With the closure of the Citrus Service juice plant in mid December, the city has lost one of its industrial links with a bygone era. But Anderson thinks its closure might offer opportunity for someone to move in and start a factory.

But who will move in or when it will happen is largely a mystery to Anderson. He said representatives frequently come into his office to ask about pieces of property without revealing the identity of their clients.

They sniff around to see whether anyone else is interested in the same property. They ask the demographic experts who will be moving in. Then they leave. Some of them come back with Dairy Queen restaurants or Lowe's stores. Others break ground elsewhere.

[Last modified February 19, 2006, 01:08:19]


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