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Toyota dealer considers SR 54

A new Toyota dealership is less than two years from opening in Wesley Chapel, which will make it the third automobile dealership to settle in the community in the past few years.

Toyota's regional headquarters, in Deerfield Beach, confirmed the Japanese automaker's plans to expand into what is one of the hottest suburbs in the Tampa Bay area.

The likely location is State Road 54 east of Interstate 75, which is becoming an auto shopping mecca with the 1999 opening of Heritage Ford and this year's arrival of Century Kia.

"We're looking at several sites and dealing with several landowners, particularly on SR 54 off Interstate 75. We're not final on any site yet," said Kevin Sreenan, a Toyota regional vice president.

Toyota controls 14 franchises in the region, in places such as Tampa, Clearwater, New Port Richey and Brandon, but none so far in central Pasco County.

Sreenan said the company has pinpointed a "diversity candidate" to run the Wesley Chapel franchise. Competition is often fierce for the right to run such businesses.

Toyota expects the new dealership, laid out on 9 to 12 acres, to sell 1,500 to 2,000 cars and trucks a year.

A marketing survey of the Tampa area _ one of 17 metro areas in the southeastern United States monitored by Toyota _ flagged Wesley Chapel for its growth potential, Sreenan said.

Straddling I-75 about 20 minutes north of Tampa, the community, powered by residential growth in neighborhoods such as Meadow Pointe and Seven Oaks, adds thousands of new residents a year.

Its median household income was about $65,000 year, according to the latest census figures.

"We continuously monitor the metro area for shopping patterns, demographic growth," said Sreenan, who labeled Wesley Chapel an "uptick" area.

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