SAN ANTONIO — A dormant proposal to build a 1.2 million-square-foot industrial park northeast of the Interstate 75/State Road 52 interchange could be getting new life.
The 168-acre site, proposed to be developed as the Pasco Commerce Center, sits on both sides of Pasco Road, just north of the existing One Pasco Center industrial park. It is owned by Michigan business magnate Alon Kaufman, the chief executive of HoMedics, a family-owned maker of consumer electronics and wellness products.
Kaufman, who incorporated his holdings here as Pasco Industrial Inc., purchased the land from the Grossenbacher family in 2004 for $4.6 million. Last week, the Pasco Commerce Center's planning and transportation consultants, from Stantec Consulting Services, met with county planners to discuss a "renewal and update" of the prior zoning approval and conditions for development. Stantec referred inquiries to its client, and Kaufman was in China and unavailable for comment.
At the time of the land purchase, HoMedics headquarters in Commerce Township, Mich., issued a statement saying the Pasco land was an investment property and not a future home for the company.
The March 16 meeting came exactly six years to the day after the County Commission approved rezoning the land from agricultural use to a master planned unit development that could have encompassed 480,000 square feet of light industry, 480,000 square feet of warehouse space, 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space and a 40,000-square-foot business park. The total space is the equivalent of nine Sam's Club warehouse stores.
Among the conditions attached to the 2010 rezoning was a requirement for a $10.8 million payment (in 2009 dollars) for the employment center's proportionate share of the cost of road improvements, notably widening State Road 52 and ongoing rebuilding of the I-75 interchange, when the county issued the building permit.
That could be changing. According to notes from the March 16 meeting, the applicants want to maintain the light industry designation and supporting commercial uses but "all EC (employment center) like stuff will be removed." That could allow the proposed development to come in under the county's newer, less costly transportation fees, known as mobility fees, that went into effect in 2011.
The county land code specifies 40 principal uses for light industrial districts ranging from banking and boat manufacturing to warehousing and distributing, some manufacturing and food processing plants, offices, restaurants and hotels. The commerce center is studying a 10-year build-out for the project, according to the meeting notes.
The size of the proposed industrial park "would be a game changer," and its location next to I-75, where the SR 52 ramps currently are being reconstructed, is "a great location for not just industrial development, but distribution because of the access to markets there," said Bill Cronin, president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council.
Cronin was cautious in his comments because such preliminary meetings among developers' representatives and county staffers, known as pre-application meetings, don't always signal a commitment to proceed immediately.
But if the project is moving forward, Cronin said, "that is exactly the kind of behavior and increased activity we want to see from the development community."
The renewed interest in the Pasco Commerce Center also comes as the county seeks applicants for low-interest loans to add infrastructure to potential industrial and office sites or to build shell buildings as spec space.
"If we're not ready for all that activity coming this way, we're going to miss out on it. So we need to get some more sites ready," Cronin said.