WESLEY CHAPEL — George Epperson gazed out at what used to be the family's ranch land where they raised cattle and grew citrus. Now, it's poised to become the first Crystal Lagoon in the United States in a development that bears his family's name.
"They've got a future thought out and it's certainly not temporary,'' said Epperson, 62, who still lives nearby.
"They'' is Metro Development Group and Crystal Lagoons U.S. Corp. On Thursday morning, after three years of planning, the two companies celebrated the ground-breaking on a 7.5-acre swimming pool that will be the centerpiece amenity of Metro's 2,000-home Epperson development at Curley and Overpass roads, just a little north of State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel.
While 10,000 Maniacs' These Are Days played in the background, dozens of invited guests sipped champagne, toasted the project and got an aerial view via a boom lift of the ongoing construction. The lagoon is more than six football fields long and four-fifths of a mile around. The average water depth will be eight feet.
Greg Singleton, president of Metro Development, estimated the company's investment in the Crystal Lagoon could reach $5 million to $10 million because of the landscaping and accoutrements. Those include a swim-up bar and restaurant; a separate cabana pool area; a beach dubbed Gasparilla Island; a play area with a slide, obstacle course and canoe, kayak and paddle board rentals; a grotto and waterfall, and an entertainment center with a stage and large-screen television for special events. The developers envision Crystal Lagoon being host to weddings, corporate events and even watch parties for televised sports.
Uri Man, CEO of Crystal Lagoons U.S. Corp, said construction could be completed in September. The company will buy water from Pasco County to fill the 15-million-gallon lagoon and it could take 45 to 60 days to fill the pool as it turns on the taps during off-peak consumption for the rest of the county utility. Man also touted the project's eco-friendly attributes. After it is filled, it will use significantly less water than a similar-sized park or 18-hole golf course and less chemicals and energy than a conventional swimming pool. The lagoon will have 400 sensors to measure water quality standards.
Singleton, of Metro, said people kid him when he says "it's like swimming in a bottle of Zephyrhills water, but that's what it's like.''
The Epperson project is the first of four Crystal Lagoons Metro Development plans for Florida. A second lagoon is slated for the nearby Mirada development south of State Road 52. The others will be in the Southshore Bay development in southern Hillsborough and in Fort Myers.
Epperson is the initial project to break ground in the so-called connected city corridor, the first ultrafast gigabit community developed from the ground up. It will encompass 7,800 acres in Wesley Chapel, about 35 percent of which is owned by Metro, and be home to 96,000 people living in 37,000 homes if a planned 50-year timeframe pans out.
The Pasco County Commission is scheduled to consider a series of ordinances next week to establish the connect city corridor planning district and its financial and utility plans.
The Crystal Lagoon and ultrafast Internet is part of the sales pitch for Epperson, where construction of model homes has begun.
"We want to make it difficult,'' said Singleton, "to go elsewhere.''
Contact C.T. Bowen at [email protected] or (813)435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2