Make us your home page
Instagram

Pasco's Connerton development shuts down operations

Empty land at Connerton, a Pasco County development east of U.S. 41 in Land O’Lakes, awaits the start of a town center.

KAINAZ AMARIA | Times

Empty land at Connerton, a Pasco County development east of U.S. 41 in Land O’Lakes, awaits the start of a town center.

Connerton, one of the largest residential developments around Tampa Bay, has gone out of business.

On Friday, developer Terrabrook closed its offices and welcome center on U.S. 41 in Land O'Lakes and let go six full-time and four part-time employees.

"They kept the project running a long time without revenue," said Connerton president Stew Gibbons, who was laid off. "But they just couldn't make the finances work anymore."

Developers envisioned Connerton as a mid to upscale "new town" similar to Disney's Celebration near Orlando. Unfortunately for Terrabrook, construction on the 3,500-acre project began just as the Tampa Bay housing market crested in 2005.

Terrabrook aimed to sell 700 to 800 homes a year, but sales barely topped 225 after four.

Randy Cook is one of those buyers. He built a $900,000 house in a gated section of Connerton in 2006 and joined the neighborhood's governing board.

"It's a nice community. It's a shame we're caught up in this economic crunch," Cook said. "You have to do some soul-searching: Did we overpay? Did we jump in too quickly?"

Gibbons said he's working without pay to close the sale of Connerton to an undisclosed investor. The deal needs the approval of Terrabrook, banks and bondholders who financed Connerton's community development district.

In November, Connerton defaulted on tens of millions of dollars worth of tax-exempt bonds used to finance construction of roads, street lamps, utilities and other infrastructure.

If negotiations succeed, the property could change hands in January and Gibbons and his staff would be rehired.

"Right now I'm working from my cell phone and from my home," Gibbons said.

Built atop the former Conner cattle ranch, Connerton fits in a rough triangle formed by State Road 52, U.S. 41 and Ehren Cutoff in Land O'Lakes.

Its two main selling points have been 3,000 acres of nature preserve that adjoin the property and a future town center to sport offices, stores and schools that residents could walk to. Interlocking nature trails would knit together the 7,000 to 8,000 homes.

Gibbons originally predicted the town center would start to rise this year. That has been postponed until at least 2012.

Terrabrook completed a $8 million resort-style clubhouse this year. The clubhouse has recently trimmed hours and raised fees.

As part of its live-work-and-play philosophy, Connerton developers sold off chunks of land for a branch of University Community Hospital and a Publix-anchored shopping center. Both are unaffected by the cessation of housing sales.

Residents like Cook hope a new owner will maintain the building standards — including requirements that a certain percentage of homes be built with old-style porches, detached garages and back alleys.

Until the housing market crashed, homes in Connerton were about a third more expensive than comparable homes near U.S. 41.

"If they bring in a tract home builder, it's going to lower the values of the whole area," Cook said.

James Thorner can be reached at jthorner@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3313.

By the numbers

3,500

Size, in acres,
of the development

7,000
to 8,000

Homes planned

700
to 800

Homes the developer hoped to sell a year

225

Homes sold

2009

Town center construction was to start

2012

Earliest start date
for town center

Pasco's Connerton development shuts down operations 12/08/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 11:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus

    Retail

    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.
[SCOTT KEELER  |  TIMES]

  3. Boho Hunter will target fashions in Hyde Park

    Business

    Boho Hunter, a boutique based in Miami's Wynwood District, will expand into Tampa with its very first franchise.

    Palma Canaria bags will be among the featured items at Boho Hunter when it opens in October. Photo courtesy of Boho Hunter.
  4. Gallery now bringing useful art to Hyde Park customers

    Business

    HYDE PARK — In 1998, Mike and Sue Shapiro opened a gallery in St. Petersburg along Central Ave., with a majority of the space dedicated to Sue's clay studio.

     As Sue Shapiro continued to work on her pottery in St. Petersburg, her retail space grew and her studio shrunk. Now Shapiro's is bringing wares like these to Hyde Park Village. Photo courtesy of Shapiro's.
  5. Appointments at Raymond James Bank and Saint Leo University highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Banking

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Jackson will oversee all of Raymond James Bank's operational business elements, risk management and strategic planning functions. Kackson joins Raymond James Bank after senior …

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. [Company handout]