Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Bowen: Gowers Corner on its way to becoming a corner of commerce

William A. Gower once had a decades-long monopoly on commerce at the central Pasco intersection bearing his name.

But Gowers Corner, where U.S. 41 and State Road 52 intersect in the northern Land O'Lakes area, is poised to lose its identity as the middle of the county's traffic-choked, but still half-empty crossroads.

The Florida Department of Transportation plans to build new highway lanes, and a private property owner is anticipating developers will follow.

So, think of it this way: Most everyone in central Pasco could be looking in the wrong direction.

The recent focus of near universal attention from business groups, property owners, motorists and government agencies has been the U.S. 41/State Road 54 intersection. That's what happens when the DOT moves forward with long-discussed plans to possibly build a flyover to relieve traffic congestion.

As many as 23 businesses may have to relocate, and many people advocate the alternative of doing nothing.

One thing to consider, however, is that the state has budgeted no money over the next five years to actually start buying land or to rebuild the intersection. There has been no final decision on how to proceed. So any changes are still a long way off.

Gaze northward, however, and that's not the case.

Traffic congestion is even more problematic 10 miles north at SR 52 and U.S. 41. At that point, both roads have a single lane in each direction, with turn lanes. The result? The backup of cars and trucks waiting to pass through the red light can be interminable. The end-of-the-day commute has northbound travelers in gridlock all the way to Connerton Boulevard, where U.S. 41 shrinks to a two-lane road.

The state already is buying land and actual construction on SR 52, widening it to six lanes, is scheduled to begin in 2018. Adding two lanes to U.S. 41 starts the following year.

It's a short-term inconvenience that will bring long-term relief.

"Life in that corner will be miserable for a while,'' said County Administrator Michele Baker, "and then it will be wonderful.''

Gower died in 1978. He had been a superintendent at the former sawmill in Fivay and had acquired 80 acres of land that took in all four corners of the intersection. There is some disagreement among the research published by local historians Jeff Cannon and Susan MacManus and her late mother, Elizabeth, but Gower and his wife ended up operating a filling station and grocery in the 1930s, '40s and '50s at the southeast corner, on the spot now occupied by a Speedway convenience store.

The gas station at the northwest corner didn't appear until 1970. It is expected to be demolished as part of the road construction. The other two corners are still vacant. Don't expect that to last.

While businesses might be moving out at the SR 54/U.S. 41 intersection, they'll be moving in at SR 52/U.S. 41.

The very first could be on land owned by the lumberyard barons, the Tibbets family. Its corporate entities own the 43 acres at the southwest corner, and they are seeking county permission so a future developer can build 215,000 square feet of stores, some of which will sit beneath 40 second-story residential units.

It means significant commerce is coming to an area that's been little more than a place to get gas, coffee or a headache from sitting in traffic.

One of the advocates for the proposed development is former Commissioner Pat Mulieri, who lives not so far to the west. She notes that the only grocery stores are south at Connerton and west at Hays Road. There is nothing to the north until near Brooksville, 20 miles away.

"My basic concern is that there is no public transportation,'' Mulieri said in an email. "Consequently, it is difficult for many to get to shopping area. Convenience stores are the alternative. Not a wise choice.''

Her zeal is understandable. This isn't another gas station popping up. A retail center with second-story apartments is the kind of pedestrian-friendly growth with eye-pleasing amenities and a mass transit stop that Pasco County is encouraging.

"It's a logical corner to put what you're proposing,'' Baker told landowner Arlen Tillis last week at a meeting of the county's Development Review Committee. "So, thank you for that.''

Actual development isn't expected for five years or so, and it won't include all of the property. Somebody else has designs on part of the site, too.

The DOT wants about 5 acres for the new intersection.

Comments
Eckerd College student critically injured in campus accident just before graduation

Eckerd College student critically injured in campus accident just before graduation

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student fell from a ladder on campus in the hours before her graduation ceremony and remained hospitalized Wednesday with critical head trauma.Chicago native Rebecca Ryan Lavin-Burgher, known as Becca on campus and ...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
NFL’s new anthem policy requires players to stand on sideline or remain in locker room

NFL’s new anthem policy requires players to stand on sideline or remain in locker room

ATLANTA — The NFL and the owners of its 32 teams enacted a new national anthem policy Wednesday designed, they said, to compel players to stand if they’re on the sideline for the playing of the anthem prior to a game."Clearly our objective as a leagu...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Mother fatally struck while pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa

Mother fatally struck while pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa

TAMPA — A mother was struck by a car and killed while pushing a stroller on Bayshore Boulevard and her 2-year-old daughter was seriously injured, Tampa police said.The two were hit by the northbound car around 11:43 a.m. Wednesday near W Knights Aven...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Live blog: It comes down to this for Bolts-Caps

Live blog: It comes down to this for Bolts-Caps

Follow our live coverage of the Eastern Conference final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.We'll have updates, analysis, photos, video and more on and off the ice from Times reporters, editors, sports columnists and photo journa...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Tampa charter review board recommendations go to City Council

Tampa charter review board recommendations go to City Council

TAMPA —After nine months of meetings, Tampa’s first charter review commission has delivered its recommendations.It’s a modest wish list but an important start, commissioners said in advance of today’s City Council workshop.Mostly, the commission clea...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
FDLE: Victim in $480,000 scam is heiress to Wrigley gum fortune

FDLE: Victim in $480,000 scam is heiress to Wrigley gum fortune

A woman state authorities say was scammed out of $480,000 by two of her employees is an heiress to the Wrigley chewing gum fortune.The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Tuesday that the victim in the case is Helen Rich, 69, formerly Hel...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State softball: Land O’Lakes advances to second straight title game

State softball: Land O’Lakes advances to second straight title game

VERO BEACH — Land O'Lakes had just finished a hard-fought 5-0 victory over Clay in the Class 6A state semifinal. Callie Turner threw a no-hitter. Jolene Bodner had a two-run single.The win was big, clinching the Gators' second straight champion...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Stock up for hurricanes, Buckhorn warns, or ‘we may be coming for you in a body bag’

TAMPA — Stuff that hurricane kit full of batteries, pen that emergency plan and get as many gallons of water stored in that garage while the skies are blue and clouds are fluffy white. That was the message Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other city off...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Lakewood grad Bernard Reedy, who handled the Bucs' kickoff and punt returns for much of last season, is back with Tampa Bay again.Reedy, 26, was signed on Wednesday, one day after the Bucs began OTA workouts. Thomas Sperbeck, the former Boise State r...
Updated: 1 hour ago
John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

It’s been 50 years since John Fogerty wrote Fortunate Son, one of the most scathing protest songs from the Vietnam War era. Writing another one with that kind of impact has been a challenge ever since. "Back in the ’80s, I had a couple o...
Updated: 1 hour ago