New industry could replace orange traffic barrels as the top commodity on a stretch of State Road 52 in central Pasco County.
In one instance, a land owner is seeking permission to develop 139 acres as an industrial site southwest of the SR 52 intersection with Bellamy Brothers Boulevard. Farther east, an Atlanta company is planning 225,000 square feet of new industrial buildings on Pasco Road north of SR 52 and east of Interstate 75.
The proposals come as the state Department of Transportation nears completion of turning a 1.5-mile strip of two-lane SR 52 into a four-lane divided highway between Bellamy Brothers Boulevard and Old Pasco Road. The $13.4 million project is scheduled to conclude later this year. It follows the $72 million rebuild of the I-75 and SR 52 interchanges, much of which wrapped up last year.
The road work will help create better east-west access to what now is largely rural pasture land between Ehren Cutoff in Land O' Lakes and the interstate ramps. And the proposed industrial development is indicative of an initial northward migration from the State Road 54 and SR 56 corridor, where much of the county's economic expansion has been focused.
"You've got a workforce that lives up there. You've got the proximity to the interstate. You've got the road widening. And you're got the opportunity to diversify the industry up there,'' said Bill Cronin, president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council.
The proposed industrial building is called Project Hawk — a label affixed by the developer for secrecy reasons, said Cronin — that calls for constructing 225,000 square feet of industrial space on speculation. A conceptual map shows another 200,000-square-foot building in a second phase.
"No tenants have been identified yet for the building, and the building will be constructed without a tenant,'' states preliminary plans filed with Pasco County by Cason Bufe, vice president of real estate for Rooker, an Atlanta-based business-park developer. Efforts to teach Bufe for comment were unsuccessful.
Getting more industrial and Class A office space built on speculation has been a long-term goal of the county's business recruiters. Over the past two years, the county and the Economic Development Council backed loans to three projects along the SR 54 corridor to increase the inventory of offices and, in one instance, industrial space built on speculation.
"It (Project Hawk) is speculative space, and that is wonderful. I'm really happy with that. We're finally seeing the market respond,'' said Cronin. "It will be a nice speculative development in one of the sweet spots of the county.''
The project is earmarked for 112 acres on the east side of Pasco Road, north of the existing One Pasco Center industrial park. The land is owned by Michigan business magnate Alon Kaufman, chief executive of HoMedics, a family-owned maker of consumer electronics and wellness products.
Kaufman incorporated his holdings here as Pasco Industrial Inc. At the time of the land purchase in 2004, HoMedics headquarters in Commerce Township, Michigan, issued a statement saying the Pasco land was an investment property and not a future home for the company.
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The second proposal entails changing the land use on almost 139 agricultural acres owned by a Tampa-based trust.
The property is part of the Central Pasco Employment Village, a long-range land plan designation the county approved in 2010. It encompasses multiple parcels on the south side of SR 52, stretching 3.5 miles from Ehren Cutoff to Bellamy Brothers Boulevard.
The designation for the 2,400 acres was intended to guide future development of a mixed-use project to "provide job opportunities, support workforce housing, protect the natural environment and promote smart pedestrian and vehicular circulation,'' according to a Jan. 28 county memorandum to the Pasco Planning Commission. The employment center designation allowed between 30 percent and 75 percent of the land to be developed as corporate business parks, targeted businesses or light industrial uses.
But moving forward also required cooperative efforts from owners of the more than 30 parcels to seek a jointly planned development, which could be decades away. The 3KS Family Limited Partnership, owners of the 139 acres on the eastern edge of the designated employment center, now wants to withdraw from that cooperative label and develop its own land for industrial use.
"We don't want to wait 10 to 20 years,'' said 3KSs representative Cynthia Spidell of King Engineering Associates.
The land-use change requires an amendment to the county's long-range land plan and eventually new zoning. The land plan amendment, approved last week by the Planning Commission, must pass muster with county commissioners next month.
3KS Family Limited Partnership is affiliated with George Southworth, a structural engineer who owns Concrete Impressions in Temple Terrace, a company that manufactures retaining walls installed along highways. The company has no plans to move one of its plants to Pasco, Southworth said. Rather, he said, he wants to have the land properly zoned in the event an industrial development opportunity arises in the future.
Future use of the land, said Spidell, "is to be determined.''
Contact C.T. Bowen at email@example.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.