The headlines in local development were filled with news of malls, with one expanding, one opening and the other still a moonscape.
First the Grove at Wesley Chapel opened a 16-screen theater complete with a restaurant at Interstate 75 and Oakley Boulevard. An upper section of the theater allows patrons, for a higher price, to sit in comfy leather chairs and order gourmet entrees and cocktails. The cinema's proximity to a church almost scuttled plans to serve booze after members opposed a relaxation of county rules that forbid alcohol sales in establishments less than 1,000 feet from churches, schools or public parks. The theater was 173 feet too close to the church.
After hearing out members of Faith Baptist Church, county commissioners approved Cobb Theatres' request for an exemption.
The Grove also opened a Dollar Tree and got county approval for a new phase. Tenants have not been announced.
A few miles south of the Grove, the Shops at Wiregrass opened with much fanfare that included a mime performance and a release of monarch butterflies, plus lots of in-store promotions.
Macy's, Dillard's and JCPenney anchor the outdoor mall, which also includes central Pasco's first major bookstore, Barnes & Noble. In addition to books, the store features a roomy cafe that sells Starbucks coffee, soup and sandwiches, pastries, and Cheesecake Factory desserts.
Restaurants include Grillsmith, Moe's Southwest Grill, Cantina Laredo, Cosi, 365 Caffe Italiano, the Juice Zone, and a beer bar called the Brass Tap.
Two others expected to join the lineup were the Teriyaki Experience and Yamato Japanese Steak House and Sushi Bar.
Farther west at State Road 56 and Interstate 75, the land that was slated to become Cypress Creek Town Center remained barren.
Construction on the shopping center, one of the largest proposed retail projects in the Tampa Bay area, was put indefinitely on hold in April, putting at risk more than $150-million in financial commitments and thousands of promised jobs.
Beset by problems with an environmental permit, the Richard E. Jacobs Group, developer of the 1-million-square-foot project, and its prospective tenants agreed to halt construction at the site.
The mall, projected to generate 4,000 jobs and more than $9-million in yearly tax revenue, was scheduled to open in October, in time for the holiday season. The Web site now says it will be October 2009. A spokeswoman said the mall, which is still paying for the widening of State Road 54 in that area, remains committed to the project.
Long dogged by controversy over its environmental threat to Cypress Creek, a federally protected waterway, the mall had cleared the final regulatory hurdles.
But environmentalists, led by the Sierra Club, sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the fall of 2007, saying regulators should not have issued a permit letting the developer fill 54 acres of wetlands at the site. The suit is pending.
After multiple incidents of construction runoff leaking into the creek, a major source of Hillsborough County's drinking water, the corps suspended the permit in February, halting work on the 54 acres that the developer had cleared.
The mall also was sued by one of its contractors earlier this year.
In other news, a group of 13 business partners, including several with ties to the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey Association, proposed an ice sports venue, called SportsPlex USA, at Old Pasco Road and SR 54. At 288,000 square feet, the proposed complex would be roughly twice the size of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. One of the rinks would seat 1,500 people. However, no timeline was set for the project.
Also, central Pasco became home to the nation's 300th Texas Roadhouse steak house over the summer.
The Kentucky-based chain, with its shell-your-own-peanuts ambience and piping hot yeast rolls, opened at the Cypress Creek Retail Center on SR 56, not to be confused with Cypress Creek Town Center.
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4604.