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Raymond James Financial gets a bargain land deal in Pasco County

Published Sep. 19, 2016

WESLEY CHAPEL — Raymond James Financial paid $1.7 million for the 65 acres it intends to turn into four six-story office buildings in the Wiregrass Ranch development.

The relatively inexpensive per-acre price of $26,153 was part of the Porter family's incentives to try to lure the company and its projected 750-job employment center to Pasco County, said J.D. Porter of Wiregrass Ranch Inc.

"The Porter family had a lot of skin in the deal. It was a incentive as much as the other things,'' said Porter, "but it was huge for Pasco County and huge for the community and it was the right thing to do. But, we left a lot on the table.''

State and county incentives to Raymond James Financial total $14 million. The deal was first announced in 2011, but closed just last week after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved its permit and Pasco County amended the incentive agreement to remove a construction start date.

In July, Raymond James called the Wiregrass Ranch site "a good future development opportunity,'' but said it could not commit to a specific construction schedule. Monday, the company said it had no further comment beyond its earlier statement.

Some real estate professionals said the Raymond James sale could help inflate the value of adjoining properties that eventually will develop to serve the proposed employment center at State Road 56 and Mansfield Boulevard. Porter, however, said other existing projects within the Wiregrass Ranch development — the Shops at Wiregrass mall, Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, Pasco Hernando State College campus — already bring that value-added element.

Still, the Raymond James price is significantly less than other similar transactions. Thirteen years ago, Wiregrass Ranch sold 49 acres along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard to the owners of what is now Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel for $5.225 million.

Likewise, T. Rowe Price still owns the 73 acres along State Road 54 in Lutz that it bought for $13.5 million in 2009 for a planned corporate campus that never materialized.

"Sometimes doing the right thing,'' said Porter, "isn't squeezing every last dollar out of a deal.''

Contact C.T. Bowen at ctbowen@tampbay.com. Follow @CTBowen2.

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