Each passing year seems to be the biggest one yet for Wesley Chapel.

The area’s major growth began at the start of the last decade, and Wesley Chapel’s continued expansion and evolution have proceeded unabated to what we have now: a bustling mini “city” whose flowering has been astounding.

But, even with an eventful 2019 in the books, there is a chance we literally haven’t seen anything yet.

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore (right) and CEO of the North Tampa Chamber of Commerce Hope Allen.

“I think 2019 was our biggest year yet, but there is going to be a lot of exciting things coming along in 2020,” says Hope Allen, the CEO of the North Tampa Chamber of Commerce (formerly the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce).

More than 1,000 commercial permits have been filed in Wesley Chapel’s three zip codes over the last three years, including 498 in 2019. Those that get approved typically come to fruition within 18 months. So, much of what we saw open in 2019 was news in 2017 and ‘18.

Wesley Chapel got its first green grocer in 2019, as Earth Fare opened in February. Allen thinks this was one of 2019’s more significant entries into the Wesley Chapel market, because a green grocer was so desperately desired by so many local residents. For Allen, it’s not a matter of quantity when it comes adding to Wesley Chapel’s growing landscape, but rather filling a need, or a desire.

“I think that Earth Fare had a big impact, because it filled a void,” she says.

But, Earth Fare was just the beginning of a busy 2019 for Wesley Chapel. A number of new restaurants and bars, including Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar on S.R. 56 and Glory Days Grill on S.R. 54, opened, and there are plans for dozens more coming in 2020 and beyond.

“The economy is still strong,” says Pasco County District 2 Commissioner Mike Moore. “Typically, you’ll see the builders slow down when they see a change…but they aren’t slowing down.”

With all that growth, traffic remained an important issue for local residents.

S.R. 56 extension

The county did begin work on widening S.R. 54, and also moved forward with the construction of the much-anticipated Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) at the intersection of S.R. 56 and I-75. And, the S.R. 56 extension which was finally finished in 2019 — and has been well received by local commuters desiring another east-west road — will soon have something other than open pasture land along its length.

Yes, there will be more homes. And lots of them. According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Taylor Morrison Homes recently closed on 750 acres of land for $23.5-million at the northwest and southwest corners of the S.R. 56/Morris Bridge Rd. intersection, land that is already entitled for roughly 1,600-1,700 homes. 

Wesley Chapel saw its fair share of new homes go up in 2019, and thousands of housing permits are in the system for the coming years. Last year, 4,335 single residential permits were filed with the county. In the last three years, 11,448 have been filed.

The Connected City in northern Wesley Chapel has hundreds of homes under construction, including another 713 waiting on approval for Metro Development Group’s Mirada development, which will soon be home to our area’s second Crystal Lagoons® by Metro Lagoons® amenity. Avalon Park West has plans for more than 1,300 homes off S.R. 54, and Winding Ridge in the Wyndfields MPUD is seeking approval for 469 homes, just to name a few.

This formerly rural area is filling up fast, good news for those who prefer a suburban lifestyle but much to the chagrin of many others.

“We hear about it from some residents, typically from people who have been here a long time and moved out here for a quiet, peaceful life,” Allen says. “If that’s what you are looking for, this is not the place to be. This is going to be an active suburban core.” 

Emphasis on the word “active.” The county rebranded its tourism efforts as the Florida Sports Coast, a move heavily influenced by Wesley Chapel’s growth in the sports market. Although Pasco’s hiking and biking trails, Gulf coast fishing and outdoor attractions like Treehoppers in Dade City also are important aspects of the new push, the success of AdventHealth Center Ice and the soon-to-open Wiregrass Ranch Sports Campus of Pasco County in the fastest growing area of Pasco likely sparked the rebranding.

Looking ahead to 2020, Allen personally lists the Wiregrass Sports Campus opening, likely in July, as the most anticipated opening of 2020 (and she is hopeful that Raymond James Financial breaks ground), but there is stiff competition.

The Blue Heron assisted living facility in Seven Oaks and the AdventHealth-Moffitt Cancer Center building on the AdventHealth Wesley Chapel campus will be completed by the end of the year and will provide much-needed services for local residents. 

The Main Event entertainment center and the Florida Avenue Brewing Company on S.R. 56 will help spark the local nightlife scene, and a much-anticipated Aldi grocery store, as well as a host of additional new restaurants, will keep folks in the area buzzing.

And, let’s not forget the massive and speedy transformation of The Grove (see story, pg. 6),  which after being left for dead by many will have, by this time next year, it’s own craft brewery, a dueling piano bar, an axe-throwing hangout, new restaurants and a one-of-a-kind shipping container park that, if developer Mark Gold is correct, will become Wesley Chapel’s downtown.

As Commissioner Moore says, “The whole county, but especially Wesley Chapel, is growing. It’s the fastest-growing area in the state and I don’t see an end in sight. Do you?”

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