NEW PORT RICHEY — It's not Six Flags Over Hudson or a casino. Instead, county planners gave initial approval Thursday to a development that calls for retail stores, an office and a bank in an area that was once the subject of red hot rumors.
Developers want to build 230,000 square feet of shops and offices, plus three outparcels, on nearly 29 acres on the southwest corner of U.S. 19 and State Road 52, tucked past the Perkins. The site is vacant except for the empty Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative office.
Plans call for 150,000 square feet of retail and 37,000 square feet for office space. The development is being called Bayonet Point Commercial Center.
The county's Development Review Committee approved the plans Thursday with little discussion.
The site was part of an area that was the subject of intense speculation about what would eventually go there.
People pointed to several new hotels under construction on U.S. 19. They noticed the closing of the Publix at U.S. 19 and SR 52, and the For Sale signs on nearby property.
First, the rumor was Six Flags, which had been around so many years it became a suburban legend. (Never mind that the theme park has filed for bankruptcy, or that Hudson doesn't have a large enough parcel for such an attraction.) More recently, folks thought the site might become a Seminole Hard Rock Casino.
The Seminoles were quick to snuff out that speculation.
"It ain't happening," tribe spokesman Gary Bittner told the Pasco Times last April.
Bittner said it would be "next to impossible" to open a casino on any property in Pasco County. That's because a federal law says that tribes can open gaming operations only on reservations or lands held in federal trust before 1988. Besides, he said, the one in Tampa was too close.
So why were new hotels springing up along U.S. 19? Hotel representatives said they planned to cater to families visiting the area for youth sports, as well as people visiting relatives for weddings, graduations and funerals.
In other news, the Development Review Committee approved plans for an internal road network for the proposed Cypress Creek Town Center in Wesley Chapel. The outdoor mall recently got the go ahead to resume the project after being delayed by environmental concerns.
This report includes information from Times files. Lisa Buie can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-404.