DADE CITY — When Pasco County invited the Urban Land Institute here five years ago to help officials change how they’d been doing business and development for the last 50 years, it was considered a transformative event.
The ULI report exposed the county’s failures to attract any type of quality growth beyond suburban sprawl. And it led to a new planning philosophy focused on bringing high-paying jobs to Pasco — not just expensive subdivisions.
Next week, the ULI panel will return to Pasco County to review progress made by county administration and elected officials since 2008 and to set the direction for the future.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said the ULI panel taught Pasco officials to look at themselves with a critical eye to avoid mistakes of the past. “So much came out of that first visit,” Starkey said. “We got the different market areas and the idea that our county government was broken and needed to be restructured.”
Since the initial report, commissioners adopted a new land development code, implemented mobility fees and adopted its first strategic plan.
Senior Planner Richard Dutter told commissioners that approving retail projects at prime intersections, like the Target shopping center on the southwest corner of State Road 54 and Suncoast Parkway, is a wasted opportunity.
When it’s fully built out, the shopping center would create about 440 jobs that are low-paying, service oriented positions, Dutter said.
He showed commissioners how developers could use more urban design concepts, such as shorter blocks, shaded sidewalks and a transit station, to convert the property across the street into a mixed-use project that would create more than 5,000 jobs in the next 20 years. It could still have a big box store and chain restaurants — just like the shopping center to the south — but it also would include a hotel, office buildings and apartments.
“If you double the pedestrian-friendliness — and the developers would argue it doubles the cost — it creates triple the density,” Dutter said.