Friday, January 19, 2018
Business

Starkey Ranch latest to start new home construction as Pasco market picks up

ODESSA — The county's movers and shakers dined on jambalaya and posed for pictures with the loblolly bay tree they had ceremonially planted at Starkey Ranch, the newest planned community that expects to be selling homes by next year.

They oohed and ahhed over bedsheet-sized maps hanging between the openings in the pavilion that diagramed future homes, retailers and a never-before-tried venture: a park, library, and K-8 school site shared between the county and Pasco school district.

"I fought for that," said Kathryn Starkey, pointing to a red spot earmarked for a restaurant near the residential areas. The county commissioner and member of the pioneer family said she hopes for a restaurant with a porch that residents can walk to and enjoy food, entertainment and each other.

Up the road on State Road 54, billboards beckon commuters with ads for more new homes at Concord Station and the new Estancia at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel.

It's quite a difference from the past five years when the only homes being advertised were foreclosures. Developers and analysts say the market for new homes, which virtually died during the Great Recession, is starting to show signs of life.

"The pace we've been on for so long is still substantially above where we are today," said Dan Green, principal of developer Wheelock Communities, which bought the 2,500-acre Starkey Ranch for about $50 million last year. He said, "Pasco County is positioning itself to be successful in the next 20 years."

Green's statements are echoed by analysts' reports that show the market is making gains, though not nearly at the frenetic pace of the boom years.

"In terms of both new single-family home closings and permits, 2013 was the best year in Pasco County since 2007," said Marvin Rose, author of the Rose Residential Report.

Rose said after posting modest gains in 2012, new residential closings and permits increased dramatically in 2013 with 1,520 closings.

That represents a 37 percent increase over 2102 and a 53 percent rise from 2011.

However, Rose and others attribute the heavy increase to the fact that the market had plunged so low during the bust.

"We're still building a fraction of what we used to even before the peak," said Tony Polito, consultant for housing research firm Metrostudy.

They say they expect more modest growth in 2014.

Rose said factors that could hinder sales include the large price gap between new and resale homes, foreclosures still in the pipeline, and owners who are encouraged by the market's performance to put "for sale" signs back in their yards.

However, plenty of positives remain. Those include reduced inventory as more resales get bought, an improving economy, hurricane-free weather, pent-up demand and lower unemployment.

Also, builders have used the dormant years to improve energy efficiency and structural quality, moves that may sway buyers toward new construction.

"It's absolutely picked up," said Lew Friedland, president of Adam Smith Enterprises, developers of Trinity. He attributes a large part of the turnaround for his area to the relocation of Community Hospital from the city of New Port Richey to State Road 54, where it was renamed Medical Center of Trinity.

"All of their employees and all those associated people around them are looking to move to the area," he said.

The two feed on each other, said John Hagen, CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council. "Typically it's housing, then retail and employment," Hagen said. Areas of activity draw more employers, he said. "It helps if there are other employers there," he said. "Otherwise it seems risky, and people don't like to do anything risky."

Comments
Bus rapid transit: First look at Tampa Bay’s next, best hope

Bus rapid transit: First look at Tampa Bay’s next, best hope

ST. PETERSBURG — The public got its first glimpse Friday morning of a new transit system that could one day connect Wesley Chapel to Tampa to St. Petersburg.It’s called bus rapid transit, or BRT. Representatives from Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas ...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Five things Tampa Bay needs to know about bus rapid transit

Five things Tampa Bay needs to know about bus rapid transit

ST. PETERSBURG — Transportation planners on Friday unveiled a new transit vision for Tampa Bay leaders on Friday morning: Bus rapid transit.Also known as BRT, it has arisen as the leading option in an ongoing study to find the best regional transit p...
Updated: 30 minutes ago
Amazon boosts monthly Prime membership fees by 20 percent

Amazon boosts monthly Prime membership fees by 20 percent

NEW YORK — Amazon is raising the price of its Prime membership monthly plan by nearly 20 percent. The fee of $99 for an annual membership will not change, the company said Friday. The online retailer had added the monthly payment option about two yea...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Cuba’s tourism is booming despite Trump’s tougher policy

Cuba’s tourism is booming despite Trump’s tougher policy

HAVANA — On a sweltering early summer afternoon in Miami’s Little Havana, President Donald Trump told a cheering Cuban-American crowd that he was rolling back some of Barack Obama’s opening to Cuba in order to starve the island’s military-run economy...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tech firm TranferWise moves to Ybor City, illustrating a new chapter in Tampa’s business history

Tech firm TranferWise moves to Ybor City, illustrating a new chapter in Tampa’s business history

TAMPA — You could sketch an economic history of the city of Tampa — and maybe get a glimpse of its future — just by looking at the old J. Seidenberg & Co./Havana-American Cigar Factory.It opened in 1894, making it Ybor City’s second oldest brick ciga...
Published: 01/19/18
Florida unemployment rate increases slightly in December

Florida unemployment rate increases slightly in December

Florida’s rock-bottom unemployment rate ticked back up slightly after months of decline. The state’s unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in December, up from 3.6 percent in November, according to state figures released Friday. Tampa Bay’s jobless rate ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
House approves government spending bill

House approves government spending bill

A divided House on Thursday passed an 11-hour plan to keep the government running. But the GOP-written measure faced gloomy prospects in the Senate, and it remained unclear whether lawmakers would be able to find a way to keep federal offices open pa...
Published: 01/18/18
Will the third time be the charm for these Tampa Bay townhouses?

Will the third time be the charm for these Tampa Bay townhouses?

ST. PETERSBURG — In real estate circles, it would seem an odd match — 54 townhouses in an office park and a group of Realtors best known for selling luxury single-family homes in Snell Isle. Yet the Strickland Property Group is convinced it can do wh...
Published: 01/19/18
Crystal Lagoon planners cut the ribbon on a chilly day (w/video)

Crystal Lagoon planners cut the ribbon on a chilly day (w/video)

WESLEY CHAPEL — Mother Nature seems to have a way of putting a chill on one of the hottest amenities in residential real estate development.Members of the business community, elected officials and executives with Metro Development Group and Crystal L...
Published: 01/18/18

Consumer agency to spend rainy day funds

NEW YORK — The Trump-appointed acting director of the federal government’s consumer watchdog agency requested zero dollars of funding for its second-quarter budget, saying he intends to first spend down the agency’s rainy day fund. In a letter to the...
Published: 01/18/18