The Neighborhood News recently spoke with Wiregrass Ranch developer and owner JD Porter about his family’s philosophy in developing the land that has been owned by his family for more than seven decades, and some of the things that are coming to Wiregrass Ranch in the future. Here’s our story on Porter, and below is the map with descriptions of how Wiregrass Ranch might look in a few years.
JD Porter takes great pride in his family’s foresight. They paid $25 of $30-million to build out six lanes of S.R. 56 in front of the Shops at Wiregrass. “I give my uncles and dad a lot of credit,” Porter says. “Do it right the first time, it’s usually a lot cheaper and a lot more effective.”
And, while light rail may never become a reality, Wiregrass Ranch is ready for it. Porter says he doesn’t see it happening until the drive to Tampa takes people 2.5 hours. But, with so much traffic heading the opposite way, north from the University of South Florida area into Wiregrass Ranch, Porter has dedicated 3.5 miles of transportation right of way through the DRI, starting at FHWC, winding past the mall and Raymond James and up Wiregrass Ranch Blvd. towards the future town center.
“If not light rail, then rapid bus,’’ Porter says. Another touch: although they cost an extra $300-million or so, Porter says roundabouts are being built on Wiregrass Ranch Blvd.
There are no over-55 active adult communities in sight — the nearest one to Wesley Chapel is still Tampa Bay Golf and Country Club on S.R. 52 in San Antonio — but Porter hopes to change that with Valencia, an 850-unit single-family residential development scheduled to begin construction later this year. In fact, he sounds downright excited to do so.
“We have a young demographic, and they are going to want their parents close to them,’’ Porter says. “We want Wiregrass Ranch to be family friendly.”
Porter also notes that having an A-rated adult community (and he says Wiregrass Ranch’s will be A+) has long been an integral part of his development plans.
3. OTHER RESIDENTIAL
Persimmon Park will be a 340-unit single-family development with villas and townhomes, and will be located within walking distance to the development’s town center. It will be located just south of Chancey Rd. and west of Wiregrass Ranch Blvd. and is currently in permitting, but Porter says he has a number of builders already lined up. And, while many developers use many builders, Porter said he likes to rely on a small group, which currently includes Lennar, CalAtlantic and GL Homes.
Not much new to report here, as Shops at Wiregrass general manager Greg Lennars says the mall is still looking for those “perfect fits.” He said that a handful of green grocers have expressed interest in being one of the anchors of the new site, and better offers roll in every week, but no decision has been made.
Securing a movie theater for the project — which has yet to break ground and continues to wait on permitting — is ongoing. Altis is being built right behind it. The four-story apartment complex is a $60-million project, and is expected to open sometime in 2018, with 392 units. It is part of the Porters’ effort to begin to grow the residential area around Wiregrass Ranch as new businesses move in.
5. TOWN CENTER
Porter is not fond of the town center concept as it has been developed in most places — a Publix and a few other stores — but his team has huge plans for the center he envisions and for which he has set aside 146 acres right in the middle of Wiregrass Ranch.
“Bigger than downtown Winter Park, bigger than downtown Tampa, really,’’ says Scott Sheridan. “It will truly redefine what a downtown is.”
Porter doesn’t see the town center as Wesley Chapel’s downtown, or even Pasco County’s downtown. What he envisions is “Northern Tampa Bay’s downtown.” He says he is content to let the area around it develop as Raymond James, Persimmon Park, Estancia and The Arbors mature.
“If we did it now, it would be great, but it wouldn’t meet our standards,’’ he says. Porter adds that a performing arts center might be a good anchor, but also has seen 2-3 other proposals he likes even better. “I look at it as being what Buckhead is to Atlanta,’’ he says.
6. ATHLETIC COMPLEX
The Porters donated 138 acres to Pasco County for a park, and then watched as the county failed to close any deals to do something with the land. “It sat there for eight years,’’ Porter says, and he has expressed frustration with the progress of that land in the past, calling it a nightmare. But RADDsports out of Sarasota has won the bid to build an indoor athletic complex with some outdoor fields, and while not exactly what Porter had in mind, he seems more hopeful. “I think we all feel things are moving in the right direction,” he says.
When Sheridan and Porter look down the road, they definitely see more medical industry coming to Wiregrass Ranch.
Florida Medical Clinic just north of S.R. 56 on Bruce B. Downs opened recently, and next to that construction is ongoing on the $3-million, three-story 16,000-sq.-ft. Lismark Medical Office (photo), which will be located between the Florida Medical Clinic and FHWC. And, NTBH is expanding, too.