Sunday, January 21, 2018
Business

One year later, Bass Pro has become center of burgeoning development in Brandon

BRANDON

Last July, the parking lot to Bass Pro Shops was flooded with hundreds of people welcoming the outdoors retailer to Tampa Bay.

A year later, customers are still hard-pressed to find a slow day at the 130,000- square-foot retailer on Palm River Road.

"We are very, very happy to be here in this location," general manager Ronnie Cheeks said. "There's so many people in this market that have a passion for the outdoors."

In 2013, Hillsborough County approved a controversial $6.25 million subsidy to develop the 150-acre Estuary shopping center area where Bass Pro is located. Community leaders say that incentive has been a success.

"The county from its perspective is very pleased with where we are with not just the Bass project but with the Estuary project," said Ron Barton, director of Hillsborough County Economic Development. "It's probably exceeded our expectation as a catalyst as the development of that entire 150-acre property."

Barton said that before the investment and Bass Pro's decision to move in, the county was collecting a mere $800 a year in property taxes from the large plot, which is in full sight of Interstate 75.

Last year, the Springfield, Mo.- based retailer paid $52,219.96 in taxes, according to county records. Barton said he expected that figure to increase in 2016.

"It is speculation as to whether (the tax incentive) was worth it or not worth it," said Ben McLeish, vice president of Equity, a Tampa commercial real estate firm that owns some of the land. "It wasn't going to happen without this type of participation."

McLeish noted that Bass Pro Shops is still a new attraction for the area, and it will be a few years before the community will be able to tell if the investment actually paid off.

Adjacent to Bass Pro, Topgolf's $20 million complex has been a major attraction throughout the region since it opened in late 2014. An online car dealership, Carvana, is also slated to open its Tampa location in the Estuary project.

Next to Topgolf, an indoor skydiving facility called iFly is under construction.

This week, a national arcade company, Dave & Busters, filed a site plan for a location next door to Bass Pro.

Dave & Busters did not respond to requests for comment.

"We're very close to a couple of other announcements that are entertainment and destination venues," said Hillsborough County commissioner Ken Hagan.

The Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce said the arrival of Bass Pro sparked more development.

"When you have a major name like a Bass Pro come in, it's a seal of approval for other businesses to come in," chamber executive director Christine Michaels said. "It turned the spotlight on the area."

"We're building a strong base for the outdoor- and adventure-oriented community," Michaels said.

But it goes beyond that. With a population of about 102,500 residents, Brandon's proximity to Sarasota and Tampa, combined with cheap land and a significant middle-class population, has helped the community attract major names.

In the next few weeks, Total Wine is slated to open its third Tampa Bay location in Brandon.

Over the past year, USAA has moved more than 800 employees into a new headquarters off U.S. 301 in Brandon's Crosstown Center. Also, Tampa General Hospital and Florida Hospital are jointly building a $60 million outpatient health center on S Falkenburg Road.

Part of the allure for attracting Bass Pro was the retailer's claim that the average shopper travels more than 50 miles and spends 2½ hours in the store.

The store manager, Cheeks, said "that's common" for the Brandon location customers as well, but he declined to elaborate further.

He said the store does whatever it can to benefit the overall community. Each week, it hosts educational workshops, such as bow-fishing seminars, or children's fishing in the store's pond.

"Bass Pro seems to have a lasting commitment to the community," Michaels said.

Contact Alli Knothe at [email protected] Follow @KnotheA.

     
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