The median age dropped to 44.9 years in 2000, down from 47.9 years in 1990. Under-18 households grew 63 percent.
By MATTHEW WAITE
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 23, 2001
HOLIDAY -- A little more than a year ago, Carol Harless was looking to move her family from Zephyrhills closer to a Palm Harbor job.
She found a house, and ended up moving herself, two of her three kids and her roommate to Clydesdale Street in Beacon Square, just south of Moog Road and far enough away from U.S. 19 to avoid the noise.
"There were kids, the schools were close by, things were accessable," 34-year-old Harless said, giving her reasons for renting the house. "And it was reasonably priced."
Kids? Schools? Beacon Square?
A surprise to anyone who doesn't live there, low housing costs and a flood of young parents have driven Beacon Square's median age down a startling 16.2 years since 1990. In 1990, half the residents of the southwest Pasco neighborhood were 67.3 years or older, the other half younger. In 2000, the median age was 51.1.
Pasco overall got younger between 1990 and 2000, more so than any other county in the state, according to Census 2000 figures released today. The median age across the county was 44.9 years in 2000, down from 47.9 years in 1990.
Harless's move, from the east to the west on State Road 54, is a tour through two trends in Pasco: the old areas getting younger, and the young staying young.
In Zephyrhills, the median age went from 55.2 in 1990 to 49 in 2000. Wesley Chapel, which wasn't counted as a place in 1990, had a median age of 33.6, more than 11 years younger than the county as a whole. Land O'Lakes, an established area by central Pasco standards, grew a little older (37.5 years versus 34.2 in 1990), but still was much younger than the county as a whole.
Just south of Harless, in Holiday, the median age dropped 15.5 years, from 63 to 48.5. Households with children under 18 grew 63 percent, while houses with people over 65 dropped 19 percent.
"That's like moving the top of a mountain six feet to the right by moving the whole mountain," said Mike Rapp, the Pasco school district's planner.
Age, as much as any other factor in the census, has wide reaching impacts, affecting schools, transportation, commerce, employment, politics, health services and dozens of other aspects of daily life.
For Mary Jane Stanley, the executive director of the Pasco County Economic Development Council, the growth in younger people gives her more of a work force to help promote Pasco to large employers.
June Nogle, a research demographer with the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said Pasco's drop in median age means fundamental changes in many things, including service businesses. Younger people eat at different restaurants, buy clothes at different stores and have much different spending habits than those 65 and over.
"Three years is pretty dramatic," she said. "There could be a massive new market the businesses haven't found."
But Rapp said more children living in the southwest corner of Pasco came as no surprise, because in the past 10 years they've built 10 schools in the area. In that span, 65 percent of the new children coming to school come from areas south of State Road 52 and west of Little Road.
"The replacement in west Pasco of retirees with new families will reach an equilibrium," he said. There's only so many houses for families to buy up. And when they are all sold, central Pasco will take over as the place where new kids are arriving, Rapp said.
Joe Jankowski and his wife Pam have watched Beacon Square change over the past 18 years they have lived there. Where retirees used to stroll the streets, now kids do.
"This was a retirement area," Jankowski said. "Now you have so many people coming up from Tampa, St. Pete, Clearwater."
- Staff writer Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.