For the last few years, when people have talked about the growth in Wesley Chapel, they mainly have focused on the S.R. 56 corridor, from west of I-75 all the way east to the Wiregrass Ranch Development of Regional Impact (DRI).

Now, however, it appears that the portion of S.R. 54 from near I-75, east to Morris Bridge Rd./Eiland Blvd., also is heating up, as a flood of new meetings, permits and construction are ready to transform the one-time sleepy road that cuts through the middle of the county from Zephyrhills to New Port Richey.

In Wesley Chapel, the aforementioned segment of the S.R. 54 corridor has been sparsely populated with businesses and restaurants. But, with the widening of the road all the way to Zephyrhills, as well as a house-building boom taking place on the north side of 54 (in addition to the growth of the northern portion of Wiregrass Ranch), Wesley Chapel’s portion of S.R. 54 is taking its turn as a fast-growing area.

“I think it will be the next area where you see some things happening,” said Hope Allen of the North Tampa Chamber of Commerce. “There are a lot of things coming to that corridor.”

And, it’s not just businesses.

On the north side of S.R. 54, Avalon Park West and WaterGrass (on Curley Rd.) are still building hundreds of homes and even smaller communities like Saddleridge Estates are still adding new homes.

In between those soon-to-be larger developments, the massive high-tech Connected City project, which is starting in Epperson, features the first Crystal Lagoons® amenity in the U.S. (which is finally open), and soon in Mirada, which also will be home to a lagoon.

The nearly 8,000 acres of the Connected City are bordered by S.R. 52 to the north and Overpass Rd. to the south, and from I-75 to the west and Curley Rd. to the east.

Combined, Epperson and Mirada will have nearly 6,000 new homes and 1,500 apartments.

“First come the homes, then the     commercial,” says Bill Nye, founder of Century 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.

Nye has been in real estate in the area since 1974, long before there was anything on S.R. 54 and when Pasco’s C.R. 581 (now called Bruce B. Downs Blvd., or BBD) was nothing but a dirt road. Over the years, Nye has watched the Porter family ease along the development of Wiregrass Ranch, and seen the Sierra family’s vision for the western portion of S.R. 56 come to fruition.

He says that most of the property on S.R. 54 isn’t owned by a Porter or a Sierra. Instead, a hodgepodge of owners are now cashing in. Nye says the “For Sale” signs along S.R. 54 are snowflakes — “You don’t see any two signs that are from the same owner,” he says.

A majority of the traffic emanating from all those new homes is likely to pass right through the intersection of BBD and S.R. 54, and local drivers will soon have new places to stop for gas, coffee, lunch, dinner, groceries and more.

And there is still a wealth of options coming along S.R. 56 from the Lutz area past the Shops at Wiregrass mall.

“I think everyone is growing together,” says District 2 commissioner Mike Moore, who along with District 1 commissioner Ron Oakley, represents the Wesley Chapel area on the Pasco County Board of Commissioners. “One thing comes, and then more things come.”

Here’s what is under construction, in permitting or proposed for the area along S.R. 54:

1. Nye Commons:

This little strip center recently hosted a ribbon cutting for its six businesses, including the popular O.T.B. (“Only the Best”) Café, which has moved right up the road from its previous location across BBD from Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel.

For more about the tenants at Nye Commons, see “Nibbles & Bytes” on pg. 42 our our current issue.

2. Twistee Treat

3. This will be Wesley Chapel’s third Wawa, joining two locations on S.R. 56. After a seemingly endless stay in permitting, the new store is going up quickly.

4. Chick-fil-A gained final approval in July. Ground should be breaking soon.

5. Dunkin’ Donuts is still under construction, and Dental Care at Quail Hollow is all but complete, and there may be additional retail coming to what is called the Scherer Center.

6. The Publix at Hollybrook Plaza (on the corner of BBD and S.R. 54) is escaping the traffic and moving closer to the new Wal-Mart. Publix closed on the land for its new location in October.

7.  Parks Ford of Wesley Chapel is in the middle of a major expansion that is expected to be completed by early spring 2019.

8. As part of the development of the northernmost portion of Wiregrass Ranch, a new strip center is going up that could be home to two new restaurants. They’re not named in the county filings, but the 5,610- and 6,995-sq.-ft. spaces are both labeled for retail/restaurant.

9. Already under construction, the RaceTrac will give local travelers four options for gas and snacks. Also under construction immediately to the west of RaceTrac is Bay Breeze Car Wash’s 10th location in Tampa Bay, and first in Wesley Chapel.

10. The Pasco C-Center: According to a conceptual plan filed with the county, this center is proposing a fast food restaurant with a drive-through, a 14,698-sq.-ft. pharmacy with a 4,000-sq-ft. retail building divided for three businesses, and a 5,500-sq.-ft. retail building divided for four occupants.

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