TRINITY — The Mitchell 54 West project, envisioned as a town center and a pedestrian-friendly gathering space amid shops, restaurants, movie screens and 800 homes, is adding a new component to bolster economic development.
The 330-acre site at the southwest corner of State Road 54 and Little Road in west Pasco is poised to become home to a 35,000-square-foot Class A office building, according to an incentive agreement approved Tuesday by Pasco County commissioners.
It is the first spec building to be constructed under a county program to accelerate job recruitment by ensuring industrial and office space is available for leasing. The key incentive is a $4 million county loan, financed by Penny for Pasco sales tax proceeds, to help offset the projected $9.275 million cost for the building.
"This is going to be an economic gangbuster for west Pasco," said Clarke Hobby, an attorney representing the Mitchell family, owners of the land.
The project also has a new development partner. Blackwater Resources of Alabama, which previously developed the Mitchell Ranch shopping plaza on the southeast corner of the intersection, now will handle all the commercial development within Mitchell 54 West. The Mitchells' previously announced buyer, Kitson & Partners of Palm Beach Gardens, will focus exclusively on the project's residential component.
Bill Cronin, president/CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council, lauded the spec building agreement.
"We have seen a lot of pent-up demand for speculative office space in our market, and the capital markets are not friendly to building spec space," Cronin said. "But we need the product to meet that demand."
Landowner Dewey Mitchell concurred.
"I've been trying for years to get someone to come up and do a Class A office building," Mitchell said. "It's hard to get Wall Street to invest in a tertiary market like Pasco."
The Building Owners and Managers Association International trade group defines Class A office space as "the most prestigious buildings competing for premier office users with rents above average for the area."
The agreement requires the private companies to build the project as a so-called transit-oriented development to include a multistory parking garage, reserved park-and-ride spots and bus stops to encourage mass transit. It would be the first such project developed in the county and is accompanied by a reduction in transportation fees, a savings that could reach up to $7 million.
Other incentives include a reduction in the loan principle if the office building maintains a 90 percent occupancy rate; up to $2.5 million in transportation fee credits for building a spine road within the development to relieve traffic at the SR 54/Little Road intersection; and up to $3 million in tax refunds over 15 years.
A June 2016 report from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council estimated the entire Mitchell 54 West project could create 3,200 new jobs, generate nearly $19 million in sales taxes yearly and pay $2.5 million in annual property taxes to the county.
Besides the housing and office building, the project plan includes a hotel, special grocery store, wine superstore, 12-screen movie theater, fitness center, department stores and special markets, and at least 10 restaurants.
Melanie Kendrick, program administrator for the county's strategic policy office, said the developers also agreed to market the outparcels within the project as office space.
"We're hoping to see a bigger boom in offices," Kendrick told commissioners.
Sale of the property from the Mitchells to Kitson and Blackwater Resources is contingent upon an Army Corps of Engineers permit. The construction schedule calls for work to begin May 1 and an opening date for the office parcel, town center, parking garage and mass transit features of March 15, 2019.
"This is an exciting project for the county," Commissioner Jack Mariano said. "Creating this first-class office space is a great thing for bringing jobs here."