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Pasco's Trinity Town Center to be auctioned

TRINITY — A lone female jogger on the empty streets of the abandoned Trinity Town Center runs past the clock tower stuck at 8 o'clock.

That was to be "Town Square."

Instead, on one side of the road are structures deserted so abruptly that construction supplies are still sitting there. On the other side are shells of incomplete buildings with metal sheets and boards protecting the inside from the elements.

"It looks like a ghost town," Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said. "This would be a great place for a horror movie shoot."

That was not the vision for Trinity Town Center. The 13.5 acres at 9040 Tryfon Blvd. in Trinity was to boast a Mediterranean-style, pedestrian-friendly plaza with more than 150,000 square feet of high-end commerce.

It was to be Main Street, where residents gathered to sing Christmas carols during a tree lighting.

But millions of dollars of debt destroyed that plan. Current owner Trinity Town Center LLLP has until Oct. 28 to sell the development. Otherwise, it will be sold at auction that day as part of a bankruptcy court agreement.

Starkey, whose district includes the development, can envision it becoming a satellite campus for a college or a mix of office and retail.

"Whatever brings jobs to the area," she said.

It has two tenants at the moment — Raymond James Financial Services and LifeSpring Church.

Starkey remembers there was a bank at one point and a gift shop. But, mostly, tenants would be announced and then never move in.

Gaetano's Italian Restaurant, for instance, was to be located inside Trinity Town Center suite 104, prime real estate due to its large patio near the clock tower space that could host community events.

No construction has been done at Trinity Town Center since 2012, yet torn and crinkled plumbing schematics for Gaetano's still lie on that suite's floor. A thick layer of dust covers booth seating installed on opposite walls. A bar remains unfinished. Electrical wires dangle from the unfinished ceiling.

On the other side of the town center is another abandoned suite.

Lumber is stacked in piles. Construction supplies, including boxes of nails and tape measures, are strewn about the floor.

"I cannot believe this stuff is still here," Starkey said.

It looks like a scene from a zombie movie, as though contractors fled when the flesh-eating monsters rolled through.

Trinity Town Center LLLP was controlled by Tarpon Springs resident Bill Planes until the bankruptcy in January.

As part of an agreement with lender Sunfield Homes of New Port Richey, Planes agreed to step down and allow a fiduciary to control the entity and shepherd it through the bankruptcy process.

When contacted, Planes said he has nothing to do with the project any longer and hung up. His attorney did not return a request for comment.

Planes served time in federal prison in the 1980s for embezzling more than $140,000 from a Hollywood, Fla. mortgage company he was hired to resurrect.

In 2004 he spent $5.4 million on the land where Trinity Town Center was to be built. Construction began in 2007. A year later subcontractors were filing legal action for unpaid bills.

Construction stopped and started on multiple occasions, ultimately leaving the development in limbo.

According to court documents, among Trinity Town Center LLLP's debts are $13.7 million to lender Sunfield Homes and $1 million to Tampa concrete company Coreslab Structures.

An appraisal conducted by CBRE lists the development's worth at around $26 million.

There is no guarantee the auction will cover all debts.

"I anticipate a best scenario of a piece" of what his client is owed, said Coreslab's attorney Robert Meyer.

According to the appraisal, 65,000 square feet of Trinity Town Center could be rented immediately and another 31,000 empty square feet can be built on.

And then there is the 400-space parking lot.

"That's a lot of potential people," the auctioneer, John Harris, said.

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3394. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

Pasco's Trinity Town Center to be auctioned 10/05/16 [Last modified: Sunday, October 9, 2016 8:14pm]
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