Pasco planning commissioners gave their nod of approval Thursday to a request for a land use change to allow new apartment construction at the southern end of the Gulf View Square Mall.
Generally Pasco officials have shied away from converting commercial space to residential, citing the need to generate jobs. They also have not wanted to extend the perception that Pasco is just a bedroom community for more populous Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
But this complex proposed on U.S. 19 in Port Richey fit the special criteria of being in the “west market area,” where multifamily housing is rare and redevelopment is strongly encouraged.
This development will replace the old Sears building at the mall, which closed in 2019. Demolition began earlier this year. It is the second apartment complex going on a portion of the old shopping hub.
The first, the Gables at Gulf View, was approved by the County Commission in September 2018 and built on the back side of the mall, replacing what was once a J.C. Penney Co. store, which closed in 2014, and the old Macy’s, which shut its doors in 2015.
Gulf View Square Mall was built by Edward J. DeBartolo and opened in 1980, creating a bustling center of commerce. The original tenant anchors were Belk-Lindsey and Montgomery Ward. Like other malls around the country that have faded as shopping habits have changed, in recent years Gulf View lost most of its national chains.
Current management did not return a call seeking comment on the mall’s status, but its Facebook page indicates it is in the midst of a revitalization. Managers are building back dining offerings at the food court and attracting new businesses. A circus recently set up in the parking lot and the Easter Bunny is due in the coming days for pictures with children.
“Gulf View Square has benefited tremendously from the addition of the Gables at Gulf View and the larger revitalization of this stretch of U.S. 19-Gulf Coast Highway. The mall is alive and well today, and continues to see increasing foot traffic, sales, and tenancy,” according to the post.
The application for a conditional use to change the land use to build 288 apartments on a 15-acre site in a commercial zone was approved without any discussion by the public or planning commission members.
The site is northwest of the intersection of Salt Springs Road and U.S. 19. Because it is in a danger zone from tropical systems, the development will be required to follow special rules, including creating a public information program and a site-specific evacuation plan.
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The developer also will be required to provide a bicycle and pedestrian connection to the future West Pasco Regional Trail as well as give Pasco County approximately 12 feet of additional right-of-way for the future trail along Salt Spring Road.
The site was purchased from the mall owner by Gulfview 9409 LLC, a Minneapolis-based company, for $5.4 million in April 2022, according to Pasco County property records.