Will Wesley Chapel ever stop growing?
Conventional wisdom suggests that, eventually, the area will just run out of available space for new development.
On the other hand, there’s currently still a lot of developable space and 2022 was packed with more eye-opening developments and announcements, portending a future that will continue to delight those eager for new “stuff” and infuriate those who don’t want to be stuck in traffic getting to that new stuff.
Here are five of the biggest things that went down in Wesley Chapel in 2022, with an eye towards 2023.
1. The KRATE at the Grove Container Park finally debuted in June, and we think it’s fair to say that while it’s not perfect, it was still Wesley Chapel’s No. 1 success story of 2022. The grand opening event of what is, at the very least, our area’s most unique and one-of-a-kind hangout, drew roughly 8,000 people, and its neverending stream of special events — like ‘70s Night, ‘80s Night, movie nights and more — routinely draw more than a thousand patrons at a time.
Comprised of converted shipping containers with an Instagrammable flair, KRATE has a little something for almost everyone. It boasts 29 restaurants with a variety of ethnic offerings – many doing well in our annual Reader Dining Survey of Wesley Chapel and New Tampa eateries; results will be online next week — as well as 17 retail stores. The KRATE’s stage features some kind of live entertainment most weeks.
And, the park continues to come up with innovative new ideas — like wrapping up 2022 with “Swiftmas Christmas” celebrating Taylor Swift with contests and Wesley Chapel performer Isabella Diaz singing the pop superstar’s hits — that provide just another taste of what we can expect in 2023.
2. The Pop Stroke groundbreaking was definitely one of the more buzz-worthy beginnings of a new project in or near Wesley Chapel in 2022. Sure, there are bigger and more consequential developments in the area, but a hip new place to do stuff in an area that has complained about a lack of it for years will be huge when it opens in early 2023.
With Tiger Woods’ backing, the unique mini-golf course is sure to draw big crowds to its location at the intersection of S.R. 56 and Wesley Chapel Blvd. If it also can draw, well, Tiger Woods, to its grand opening, wouldn’t that be something?
Heck, Pop Stroke might even be open before the more traditional, family-oriented mini-golf course at The Grove, which we expect to announce it is officially opening….any…day…now…
3. Saddlebrook Resort — which deserves maybe more credit than anything else for putting Wesley Chapel on the map as far back as the 1980s — was sold in 2022 for $15 million, and long-time owner Tom Dempsey told us that it was just the first step in an expansion and renovation of the storied golf resort and residential development.
Sure enough, buyers Mast Capital and Amzak Capital Management are prepping to get their money’s worth from the deal. On Jan. 5, the developers
will present their plans to the public at a Pasco County Planning Commission meeting, with hopes of taking it to the Board of County Commissioners in February for approval.
Those plans include expanding Saddlebrook’s master-planned unit development (MPUD) by more than 400 acres and converting one of its two Arnold Palmer-designed golf courses and the resort’s driving range into a site that would potentially include commercial/retail, restaurants, apartments, homes and other uses — serving as something of a Saddlebrook town center.
4. New roads may not be that sexy of a thing to list in the year’s biggest news, but Wesley Chapel took a few giant steps (and maybe a short drive) forward in 2022.
First, the diverging diamond interchange (DDI) is now fully open at the S.R. 56 and I-75 and, except for some clean up and road markings, has been completed.
Considering the issues the interchange had with its previous construction company, which caused a months-long delay, the completion of the DDI is a pretty impressive feat. And, while it may still be a little confusing to some people, there is little doubt the interchange has proven to be a success.
Any day now (maybe even by the time you read this), the Overpass Rd. Interchange at I-75 also will be open, another project expected to have a big impact on area traffic. Located halfway between the S.R. 54 and S.R. 52 exits, the new Exit 282 interchange will be a boon for those settling in the quickly developing northern part of Wesley Chapel, and heck, it might even also improve the S.R. 54 interchange, which likely has taken over the title from S.R. 56/I-75 as the worst area locally to be driving at 5 p.m. on a weekday.
Toss the widening of S.R. 54 from east of Curley Rd. to Morris Bridge Rd. in there, which also is making steady progress and should be completed late in 2023, and, all in all, it kind of feels like this year was a win for area commuters. And, next year also should see the opening of at least the first leg of the long-awaited Zephyrhills Bypass from S.R. 54 to Morris Bridge Rd.
5. Wiregrass Ranch, which has been simmering for the past few years, is starting to boil, too.
In 2022, it was announced that a second hospital (Orlando Hospital) was coming to the Ranch, along with Cooper’s Hawk Restaurant (which blew up our Facebook page more than any other story in 2022). A number of plans also were filed with the county to begin work on some of the other long-vacant parcels in the DRI, including the long-awaited town center.
With Wiregrass Ranch Blvd., which will serve as the spine to the entire development, just about complete, we’re expecting a slew of major announcements from developer JD Porter in 2023.