HUDSON — When it comes to plans for the property behind the Bayonet Point Shopping Center, the rumor mill has been full of grist.
Will it become Six Flags over Hudson? A Seminole Hard Rock casino?
No and no.
It now appears the best hope for entertainment on State Road 52 and U.S. 19 will be a movie theater. And even that might be seven years away.
Plans recently submitted to the county call for 340,000 square feet of retail on 19.92 acres just north of the existing strip center and 500 apartments or townhomes on the western half of the site behind the retail development. Developers have asked that planners offer flexibility to allow for hotels, office and a multiplex movie theater in the area of a roughly 80-acre site marked for retail. The entire project would have to be completed by the end of 2019.
The proposal first must win approval from the county's Development Review Committee, a group made up of the top county administrators and representatives from the Economic Development Council and school district.
The staff has recommended approval of the plan, to be discussed at the committee meeting that begins at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the West Pasco Government Center.
"I think that sounds like an encouraging step in the right direction for the county's redevelopment efforts," said Michael Cox, an EDC member and former county commissioner from west Pasco. "That area of the county has seen its glory days. It's nice to see people are trying invest money to resurrect that area."
Cox said the plans play well into county officials' plan to manage growth by carving the county into market areas with varying degrees of development. The U.S. 19 corridor is marked for the highest level of development to help support future mass transit.
The area has been approved for development since 1974, though the focus has changed over the years. The original plan called for an enclosed regional shopping mall, but market conditions kept that from happening. In 1981, development permits were issued to construct a 41,500 square foot Publix, which closed two years ago.
In 1984, county commissioners approved a plan to convert the original regional shopping mall concept to a strip shopping center with outparcels, while retaining the two stores previously constructed. Dunedin-based Mid-Peninsula Realty Investments bought up most of the vacant land between 2004 and 2006.
Rumors that Hudson would be the site of the next Florida theme park or that a Hard Rock casino would open there abounded after the Publix closed and a number of new chain hotels started going up along U.S. 19.
Meanwhile, Six Flags was struggling to avoid bankruptcy, and hotel representatives said there was a shortage of lodging of that caliber for sports teams, recovering hospital patients, people visiting local relatives and tourists who didn't want to pay top dollar for beach-front rooms.
Representatives from the Seminole tribe said it would be nearly impossible to expand in Pasco because federal law says that tribes can open gaming operations only on reservations or lands held in federal trust before 1988. Plus, it would be too close to the one in Tampa.