LAND O’ LAKES — The nation’s largest home-builder is now the largest property owner in Connerton, the massive residential development in central Pasco.
Lennar Homes, which already built almost half of the existing Connerton community, acquired approximately 1,443 acres in a $26.1 million deal that closed in mid December. Previous owner Hayman Woods of Dallas, under its local name of Pasco Investment Land, is retaining about 106 acres, some of it undevelopable, within the community, according to property records..
Connerton once billed itself as a new town development with a walkable downtown amid trails, pocket parks, wetlands and woods abutting a 3,000-acre state preserve. The development sits east of U.S. 41 on what formerly was the Conner family’s 8,000-acre ranch stretching from Ehren Cutoff to State Road 52. The project kicked off in 2004 and initial plans called for 8,500 residential units and 3 million square feet of commercial space on 4,800 acres.
Lennar becomes the project’s third owner after Hayman Woods and original developer, Terrabrook, which sold its interestst in 2010. But, this isn’t the first time Lennar has invested in Connerton. In 2005, the home builder paid $25 million for nearly 1,100 aces on the project’s northwest side and planned 1,200 homes in a seniors-only community. The plans fizzled, however, amid the bursting real estate bubble and Great Recession. A Maryland company later acquired that land and turned it into a wetlands mitigation bank.
Connerton’s early progress was slowed by accessibility. It is more than 6 miles north of the booming State Road 54 corridor and the then-two-laned U.S. 41 served as its only access. An east-west connection linking the project to the planned Ridge Road Extension and the Suncoast Parkway has yet to materialize.
Connerton rebounded earlier this decade amid a national economic recovery and an assist from Washington, D.C. The state used federal stimulus money to do the long-planned widening of U.S. 41, providing multi-lane access to the development from the south. Connerton had less than 300 finished homes in 2013, but now has approximately 1,100 homes. Last year, it was recognized by the National Association of Home Builders for its community lifestyle.
“There’s still several thousand additional units to be built,’’ said Stew Gibbons, part of the original development team who now is working as a consultant for Lennar.
Within the project is land set aside for a middle school, an 80-acre county park, and a commerce park that now is occupied solely by an AdventHealth long-term acute-care hospital.
The acquisition shows Lennar is bullish on Pasco County and is expanding its footprint here. A year ago, the company purchased more than 2,900 acres from the Bexley family’s Angeline Corp for $23.65 million, It also said it plans to acquire the remaining 4,000 acres south of State Road 52 and east of the Suncoast Parkway to develop as many as 11,495 homes and an 800-acre office and industrial park. Lennar also previously signed on as developer of the 3,600-acre, 6,400-home Two Rivers Ranch project between Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills.
“We believe in Pasco County,’’ said Mark Metheny, Lennar’s Tampa division president. “Clearly many home buyers and businesses are seeing that this county is special and has a very bright future.’’
Contact C.T. Bowen at [email protected] or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.