TRINITY — When the county rolled out an innovative program that cuts costs for office projects where it wants to encourage business growth, the plan was largely abstract. Just numbers on a chart and a theory.
Crews broke ground last week on a 21,500-square-foot office building in Trinity, and the developer said he nearly doubled the size of the project because the new program saves him roughly $200,000.
"It allowed us to take the risk of the larger project," said Clearwater developer Joel Traub, who originally planned on a 12,000-square-foot building. "We could hold (unused space without tenants) for longer."
The Trinity Corporate Center will be south of State Road 54, just east of Duck Slough Boulevard. Its anchor tenant, Wells Fargo Advisors, will occupy about 8,100 square feet. Because of the proximity to the new Medical Center of Trinity, Traub has lined up one medical practice and is in talks with a second. The building is slated to open in May.
The so-called mobility fee plan eliminates transportation charges for office, industrial and hotel projects in urban areas of the county, which are generally along the coast and the southern border. The plan also includes lower fees for homes built in those areas, with higher fees in rural north Pasco. The idea is to discourage urban sprawl by encouraging more dense development in urban areas.
Michael Cox, a former county commissioner who works as a Wells Fargo financial adviser, called the project a good real-world example of how the mobility fee should work. He said Traub originally planned to include the transportation fees as part of the rent until he learned more about the county's new policy.
"It's sort of a no-brainer," Cox said. "And I think there's more to come."
The lower mobility fees were also part of the incentive package to lure a planned expansion of Raymond James Financial to Wesley Chapel. The company has planned two office towers totaling 250,000 square feet. That works out to a savings of $1.4 million. But the company has reserved the right to eventually build up to 1 million square feet of space, potentially adding millions more in savings.
Richard Gehring, Pasco's growth management director, said most projects that are crossing his desk are at least considering the lower rates offered in the plan. He cited a pair of residential developments in Wesley Chapel that are incorporating so-called "traditional neighborhood design," which also gets a break in fees.
Such mixed-use projects include a grid road network and office and retail space near homes, so people can skip driving their cars more often.
"It's close enough that there's pedestrian connection and you don't have to get into your car," Gehring said. "It's not just all residential. You don't have to leave the project area to get basic services."
Gehring also noted that even fast-food chains such as McDonalds are thinking about locating stores in dense hubs to take advantage of lower fees. He said the county doesn't have a concrete example of such a move, but "there's that dialogue going on."
Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.