WESLEY CHAPEL — Developers of the proposed Cypress Creek Town Center, dogged by delays over environmental issues, are now asking Pasco County officials for an additional 10 years to complete the first phase of the multimillion-dollar shopping complex.
Representatives for the proposed 1 million-square-foot town center at Interstate 75 and State Road 56 want until 2021 to finish the first part of the outdoor mall.
"The downturn in the economy, which followed on the heels of (delays caused by permit challenges) has resulted in an environment which will make it even more difficult" to finish the first phase by 2011, the developers said in paperwork filed with Pasco County. "The extension will allow Cypress Creek Town Center to complete construction concurrent with an anticipated economic recovery."
The mall promises a 2011 opening date on its Web site. But the Army Corps of Engineers halted work on the site and suspended the developers' permit for about 18 months after muddy water flowed into Cypress Creek, a federally protected waterway that feeds into Hillsborough County's drinking water supply.
The corps reinstated the permit Sept. 4 after the developers agreed to a $297,000 fine for violating the Clean Water Act.
The Sierra Club has sued the corps over its decision to issue the permit, and Kearney Construction LLC, which did earthwork for the mall and later filed for bankruptcy, has sued the developers over $1.6 million it says it is owed.
Deanne Roberts, a spokeswoman for mall developer the Richard E. Jacobs Group, said no one could predict a realistic time line for completion.
She said such requests for delays are common during an economic downturn and that the developers, which spent $21 million widening State Road 54 from the site to U.S. 41, remains committed to the project.
She said the company needs the extra time to wait out the sour economy in hopes of later attracting tenants. Several possible tenants, Linens 'n Things and Circuit City, closed all their stores after filing for bankruptcy.
Patrick Berman, senior director of retail brokerage at Cushman & Wakefield of Florida Inc., called Cypress Creek's request a "smart move."
"Time is a friend to a developer," he said. "They're thinking smart and giving themselves a big window." Berman said he doubts the Jacobs Group will need the full 10 years, as even the "most negative economists" predict a turnaround by 2011.
"I'll make a dollar bet that you'll see a mall well before 2021," he said.
John Meyer, who coordinates developments of regional impact for the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, said the council had accepted the developers' request at its September meeting. He said Cypress Creek's request is not unusual.
"About 75 percent of developments of regional impact are asking for extensions," he said. The planning council also told top Pasco County officials, who are set to make a recommendation Thursday to the County Commission, that Cypress Creek's request is not a "substantial deviation" from its original plans.
County planners have recommended approval of the request.
The proposed mall is being developed by the Richard E. Jacobs Group of Cleveland and Sierra Properties of Tampa.
Developers have said when all phases are complete, Cypress Creek Town Center is expected to provide more than 3,800 full-time jobs, more than 1,000 construction jobs, annual revenue of $6 million for Pasco County and $2.4 million for the Pasco County School District.
Lisa Buie can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4604.