Those of you who haven’t been living in our area very long may not realize just how long we’ve been waiting for actual vertical construction to begin in the Cypress Creek Town Center (CCTC) development of Regional Impact (DRI).
It’s actually been at least ten years since we first heard that this sizable DRI, which is located just west of I-75 (both north and south of S.R. 56, where S.R. 56 meets S.R. 54), was planned to include some sort of shopping mall. The initial announcement we got about the CCTC property was that it would be an upscale “outdoor” center, similar to the Shops at Wiregrass mall that has now been built in the Wiregrass Ranch DRI, just a mile or so east of CCTC.
But, because the CCTC property is so environmentally sensitive (see story on page 1), a coalition of environmental groups, led by the Sierra Club of Tampa Bay, has been keeping close tabs on the plans for CCTC, which is home to the headend of Cypress Creek, an important tributary of the Hillsborough River, which is a primary source of drinking water for Hillsborough County and surrounding areas.
Although the entire CCTC area isn’t comprised of wetlands, much of the land is extremely low-lying and there also is a goodly amount of upland animal habitat in the area that still isn’t automatically afforded the same protections wetlands have in Florida today.
So, the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society and other local environmental groups have been trying to ensure that the development of the CCTC will not despoil this environmentally rich piece of real estate. Their efforts have caused such extreme delays to that development that the developers of both the Wiregrass Ranch mall and The Grove shopping center (one exit north on I-75, off S.R. 54 and Oakley Blvd.) were able to get their large commercial projects not only approved but built, while the CCTC developer, the Richard E. Jacobs Group, remains mired in legal red tape.
The fact that the other two large projects in Wesley Chapel were developed first caused the Jacobs Group to change its plan for the proposed mall in CCTC to something closer to the mix of “big-box” stores that now exists in The Grove than anything approaching an actual “mall.”
And, because of the ongoing legal wrangling at CCTC, many stores that previously had been announced for that development reportedly had/chose to pull out of their agreements to place stores in the area. At our press time, we had not been told whether or not Kohl’s Department Store or other planned CCTC tenants were still planning to be built in the development. Hopefully, we will be able to provide more updates soon.
A New Outlet For Great Shopping?
In years past, we also heard that a large, outlet-style mall, similar to the one located off I-75 in nearby Ellenton, was likely to be built someplace closer to S.R. 52 (one exit and five miles north of S.R. 54 off I-75) in the San Antonio (FL) area than to either S.R. 54 or 56.
However, the recent announcement that the same company that developed the Prime Outlets at Ellenton is now close to being able to build its newest outlet mall in CCTC (again, see page 1) is hopefully good news for this still-embattled, but surely strategically located parcel of land.
Like J.D. Porter, the spokesperson for the Porter Family Trust which sold the property for both the Shops at Wiregrass and the under-construction Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel and the Wiregrass campus of Pasco-Hernando Community College (and is still planning to sell the rest of the 5,000-acre cattle ranch to home builders), I would still love to see if the Tampa Bay Rays baseball club would consider the CCTC area as a location for moving the team from its current base of operations in downtown St. Petersburg.
Although it’s a solid 45 or 50-minute drive from Tropicana Field (where the Rays currently play), there’s no doubt that the local road network — with I-75, I-275, S.R. 56 and S.R. 54 all recently expanded (or currently being expanded) around the CCTC is a vast upgrade from St. Pete and will allow fans both north and south of Wesley Chapel easier access to see Rays games in the future. And of course, we’ll keep you posted.
Don’t Miss The Taste!
This issue arrived in your mailbox only a day or two before the 19th annual Taste of New Tampa®, which has been moved from the Shops at Wiregrass back to Paul R. Wharton High in New Tampa, just a mile or so south of the county line (see page 1), on Sunday, March 11, 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
Don’t miss it, Wesley Chapel!