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  1. Pasco

Former Wesley Chapel fitness center targeted for craft brewery

The vacant building that housed Sport + Field fitness center is targeted for redevelopment as a brewery, restaurant, bar and meeting space. It sits on the northwest corner of State Road 56 and Arrowgrass Drive in Wesley Chapel.
Published Apr. 22

WESLEY CHAPEL — A shuttered fitness center could be swapping out rock hard abs for beer bellies.

A Seminole Heights craft brewery is considering expanding to property that formerly housed the Sports & Field training center at the northwest corner of State Road 56 and Arrowgrass Drive. Plans call for turning the building into a 27,000-square-foot brewery, restaurant and bar with outdoor seating and private event space.

Anthony Derby, CEO of Brew Bus Brewing and Florida Avenue Brewing Co. in Tampa, along with his mother, Toni Derby, a company cofounder and chief financial officer, and the company's attorney and architect met with Pasco County planning staff members last week to discuss the project.

"We're still in due diligence for this property, but we do expect the total project to be $8 million to $9 million with buying the property, new equipment and new infrastructure,'' Anthony Derby said. "We're under contract now, but obviously it's not a final thing.''

The building sits on 3.15 acres, and the site is valued at nearly $3.9 million, according to the Pasco Property Appraiser's Office. It is owned by Miami-based Strong S USA Inc. It listed for $4.2 million, according to information from Pierce Florida Realty of Orlando.

The building at 2029 Arrowgrass Drive opened as a high-performance fitness center in 2005, but closed 10 years later. A charter school signed a lease to open there in fall 2015, but that plan never came to fruition. Last year, a luxury auto dealership was proposed for the property, but that too failed to materialize.

Derby said the open field on the property was a key attribute that would let the brewery "use that as outdoor space and a beer garden and have an opportunity to create a really nice customer experience. That's our goal.'' The vacant building, with a red brick exterior and green roof, is in a high-profile location near the midpoint of the approximately 2.5 mile stretch of SR 56 between Interstate 75 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Derby said the Wesley Chapel site will be an expansion, not a relocation of its current operations in Tampa. There, the company brews 8,000 barrels of beer annually in a 15,000-square-foot facility in Seminole Heights..

The Brew Bus Terminal and Brewery produces its own Brew Bus label, plus the Florida Avenue brand. The brewery and restaurant also runs a fleet of vehicles that takes patrons on brewery tours in the area. The company's bus tour business will remain in Tampa, Derby said.

The Wesley Chapel facility would employ about 54 people, he said. The company hasn't determined which of its two brands will be produced there.

On the preliminary plans filed with Pasco County, the proposal is dubbed Project King for confidentiality reasons because the brewery has been working with the Pasco Economic Development Council.

"Can't say much other than it's a cool project,'' Bill Cronin, Economic Development president and CEO said via text message when asked about Project King.

If the proposed renovation is completed, the craft brewery would be the first in Wesley Chapel. Currently, there are two locally owned microbreweries in Land O' Lakes and one in Zephyrhills.

"It sounds like that would be an exciting project and something that would be well received by the community,'' said Hope Allen, president and CEO of the North Tampa Bay Chamber.

Derby said he was familiar with the fast-growing Wesley Chapel area because his mother-in-law lives in the community.

"We think Wesley Chapel is the next stop for us. We're looking forward to becoming ingrained in community as much as possible,'' he said.

If all goes according to plan, the company expects to close on the property before June 30 and hopes to be operating in 2020.

Contact C.T. Bowen at ctbowen@tampabay.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.

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