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Growth at The Grove may depend on traffic light By Michael Hinman mhinman@lakerlutznews.com

Hiring has begun at a Chuck E. Cheese’s store now under construction at The Grove at Wesley Chapel, a shopping center opened at the height of the recent housing boom, which is now growing again. How much the shopping center bordering Interstate 75 will expand, however, depends on the cooperation developers get from Pasco County officials. “The challenge we have with all the major future development out of The Grove centers around the fact that the project lacks a traffic signal at the main entrance,” Jim Mazzarelli, managing director at Genesis Real Estate Advisers — the company working with The Grove developers — told members of the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce last week.“As our engineers say, we don’t have an FRED BELLET/PHOTO ingress problem, we have an Future growth at The Grove at Wesley Chapel depends on help from the county to keep traffic moving in and out of the shopping complex off County egress problem. You can get in, Road 54. but you can’t get out.” The Grove has two entrances off County One 17-acre piece of land on the south- controls the traffic lights for vehicles look- also kept the Pepin Academy charter school Road 54, using Oakley Boulevard less than ern end of The Grove property, for example, ing to access I-75. Generally DOT wants from considering some space. 1,000 feet from the I-75 interchange, and is set up for a large box store, like a Lowe’s 1,260 feet separating traffic lights, and by “We had an idea to create this nice little Gateway Boulevard, located another 800 or Target, Mazzarelli said.The land has been adding one on Oakley, that would put three educational court that could’ve been sealed feet or so from there, where customers can vacant since The Grove opened in 2007, but traffic lights in a stretch of road totaling a lit- off” from the rest of the complex, Mazzarelli find a traffic signal. developers are in negotiations with a large tle more than 2,000 feet. said. “We went to the anchors and did a Getting to Gateway is not easy, however. department store “with a well-known “If you put in another stop light, that and great deal of negotiating with them, but we Shoppers have to leave The Grove, turn name.” the other two stop lights already there cre- couldn’t get the anchors to sign off on it.” onto Dayflower Boulevard, and then turn Such a deal, however, is contingent with ates the possibility of traffic backing up into However, those restrictions could change onto Gateway on the other side of an Econo adding a traffic light for the Oakley connec- the off-ramps of the interstate,” county in the near future. Many of the anchor leases Lodge.Anyone wanting to drive just straight tion to County Road 54. The Grove spokesman Douglas Tobin said.“We are re- are up for renewal, and since some stores out on Oakley either has to make a right developers already have spent more than viewing that, but one solution might be if would like the chance to upgrade their facilturn, or journey across three lanes of traffic $250,000 in studies and other work to get you put a stop light in there, we have an ities, that gives The Grove a little bargaining to make a U-turn at Gateway. that light in, but it still hasn’t happened. agreement that, in the future, if it backs up, power at the negotiation table. “It’s a really awkward work-around,” “We are not taking this lightly by any we’d be able to remove it.” “In addition to giving the anchors some Mazzarelli said.“It might work for everyone means,” Mazzarelli said. “It is a critical eleOther hindrances to expansion are re- money so they can refurbish their stores, we who is there now, but it doesn’t work for ment to the center as it stands today, strictions The Grove had to negotiate are getting a lot of these restrictions rethe big anchors who are going to come in especially right now when it’s only half through when it signed leases with some of laxed,” Mazzarelli said. “That will have and invest millions in a store.That’s a hurdle built-out.” its big tenants, like Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting obviously long-term benefits for the center, we’ve been working to overcome for the Although 54 is now a county road, there Goods and Old Navy.That was what stopped because the fewer restrictions we have, the better part of three-and-a-half years. We’re are still Florida Department of the Pasco County Tax Collector’s office from more flexibility we will have, and the most getting there, but it’s a long road.” Transportation restrictions in place since it opening a new location at the center, and success we’ll have in this space.”

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