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Pasco spends $15 million to grow its government footprint

Purchases include property in Land O’Lakes and an office building in New Port Richey.
The three-story Citizen Center office building adjacent to the West Pasco Government Center
The three-story Citizen Center office building adjacent to the West Pasco Government Center [ Pasco County ]
Published Dec. 29, 2020

NEW PORT RICHEY — As Pasco County continues to grow, so has the need for space to accommodate the government services the county must provide. But the cost of expansion isn’t cheap.

Over the past few months, the Pasco County Commission has approved spending more than $15 million to purchase a three-story office building to provide a new administrative office for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and to buy nearly 25 acres in Land O’Lakes to expand its safety campus and provide more area for the county’s fleet services.

Acquisition of the office building, at 8661 Citizens Drive, won’t close until the building’s current tenants vacate their offices. Known as the Citizen Center property, the 50,000-square-foot building on 4.7 acres has most recently housed Rasmussen College, whose lease expires at the end of January, and the Social Security Administration, which could potentially stay until mid-2021.

The building’s ground floor will house county building and development services offices, while the Sheriff’s Office will use the top two floors, according to county records. The site includes 200 parking spaces.

“It will house our administration offices, which are currently housed in the former Pasco jail, right across the way from this building,” said Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Amanda Hunter. “The old jail has maintenance and mold issues, which is why we are moving.”

Citizens Center office building in New Port Richey
Citizens Center office building in New Port Richey [ Pasco County ]

The county is purchasing the building from Citizen Center, LLC, a corporation based in Safety Harbor. While the County Commission approved the purchase price of $14 million, the Pasco County Property Appraiser lists the value of the site and office building at $3.7 million. Pasco County Property Appraiser Gary Joiner did not reply to a request for information about that valuation from the Tampa Bay Times.

The county did seek an independent appraisal for the site, but not in order to determine its value. That appraisal report, by Hendry Real Estate Advisors, Inc., of Tampa, set the value for the property at $14.39 million. The report was dated several days after the county signed the contract Nov. 17 to purchase the site.

“The county’s real property and planning team evaluated the cost to lease, acquire, or build a facility of this same caliber,” said Andrew Baxter, the county’s facilities director. “The initial evaluation concluded that leasing the facility would cost approximately $960,000 per year. In addition, a purchase price of $14 million was less than the cost of new construction for a custom-designed building.”

Baxter added, “Typically, an appraisal is conducted to establish value. In this case the appraisal was done during the county’s due diligence period and was available as back-up documentation for the acquisition cost.”

The county originally approached the site’s owner in November 2019, when the asking price was $15 million. According to the purchase request to the County Commission, up to $4 million of the acquisition cost will come from the county’s general fund and $10 million from the building inspections and permitting fund.

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In October, the county made its other other recent acquisition. Commissioners agreed to expand the county’s campus in Land O’Lakes by an additional 24.9 acres. The purchase price for the property was $1.25 million from Lennar Homes, LLC, but the county also paid $50,000 to Connerton Commercial Property Association.

According to Baxter’s memo to the County Commission, the extra payment was necessary “to obtain clear title and to avoid restrictions and future financial obligations to the Connerton Commercial Property Association.”

The county went looking for centrally-located land at the request of its fleet management department and settled on the parcel next to the county utilities department and the Land O’ Lakes Detention Center, Baxter said in his memo.

A market value of the appraisal set the value of the site at $1.54 million.

Baxter told the Times that the fleet department is likely looking for a fueling site in that centralized location. But much of what will be housed on the county-owned campus will be determined by the facilities plan.

“This contiguous campus will ultimately include a variety of general government and public safety buildings in the future, such as the expansion of the Land O’Lakes Detention Center and a new fire rescue training center,” Baxter said.