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Upscale homes rising in Wiregrass

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Published:   |   Updated: August 22, 2014 at 10:11 AM

W — Conventional wisdom in real estate development says that rooftops come first, before the shopping centers and schools and offices.

Wiregrass Ranch has never been the conventional development.

The 5,000-acre ranch was home to a regional shopping mall, a hospital and state college before a single home was built. That’s about to change.

Standard Pacific Homes is gearing up for the grand opening of Estancia, its long-awaited 1,181-home subdivision. The first phase has 300 home sites in six neighborhoods, three of which are gated. Marketing Manager Ryan Dougherty said the builder has gone to great lengths to create a resort atmosphere with a minimal impact to the wetlands, cypress groves and native plants that enhance the natural setting.

“We’ve worked really hard to preserve that,” Dougherty said.

Home prices start at $250,000, while the largest models can reach into the $800,000 range.

“It’s really an elevated lifestyle,” he said. “We’re appealing to the specific niche — the move-up buyer.”

Standard Pacific has already completed four models. Four more will be ready in time for the Sept. 20 grand opening.

“We’ve invested a lot of time and resources into creating homes for today’s lifestyle,” spokeswoman Danielle Tocco said. “We do livability studies with our homebuyers after they’ve been in the home for a little while. We have all brand new home designs for this community — 24 total in six neighborhoods.”

Some of the design features are obvious right away, such as the soaring ceilings and abundance of windows. “We’ve incorporated more windows,” Tocco said. “It fills the room with natural light.”

There’s an emphasis on home organization, with built-in cabinets and charging stations near the entry for backpacks and laptops. Some designs feature his-and-hers walk-in closets and separate dressing areas in the master suites.

The master bathrooms have soaking tubs and huge showers, water closets with toilets and bidets; window shades with motion sensors that automatically lower when you enter the room.

“We want it to be a resort, spa-like experience,” Dougherty said.

The kitchens have top-of-the-line appliances, abundant storage and expanded islands — some as large as 52 square feet. “You could do cartwheels on the kitchen island,” Tocco said.

The clubhouse is also under construction and will open in early 2015. It features private meeting rooms, a fitness center, two pools and a 2-story water slide. There will be a full-time activity director, basketball courts and four Har-Tru clay tennis courts.

At one time, Pulte Home Corp. owned the land just north of Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel and had planned its own major housing project there. However, it walked away from the project in 2008 when the market went bust. Four years later, Standard Pacific paid nearly $25 million for the land.

The company doesn’t release sales information, but it currently has more than 65 active building permits in Estancia. That includes a combination of inventory and pre-sold homes.

“The economic impact of a community like this is going to be substantial,” Pasco Property Appraiser Mike Wells said. “They’re going to be paying a lot of real estate taxes, and they’re going to bring upscale shopping. Everything is right there. I have to give credit to the Porter family, they planned this place well.”

Wells said he was especially impressed with the builder’s emphasis on outdoor living spaces. “That’s something that’s new to Central Florida,” he said. “I predict it will be very popular.”

But those packages come at a price. The most elaborate packages include a pool, fireplace and outdoor kitchen, and can top out at $125,000.

County Administrator Michele Baker toured the community a few weeks ago. “I had the opportunity to see the development from the ground and air,” she said. “This is a great time to be in Pasco County and this area in particular has an incredible amount of potential for future homeowners and businesses. The quality of this development is the type of development we hope to attract more of in the future.”

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