SPRING HILL - Spring Hill Plaza at Kass Circle is the oldest retail center in western Hernando County, dating to 1967 when the Mackle Brothers platted the community.
Today the shopping center and the surrounding area - known collectively as Kass Circle - is a hodgepodge of zoning categories with a mix of commercial and multi-family uses. The area lacks sidewalks, and it is often difficult to exit the plaza onto busy Spring Hill Drive.
In short, there is no consistent vision and Hernando planner Patricia McNeese said it is time to establish one.
The planning department has received a $20,000 grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to be used for the betterment of the Kass Circle area.
Residents, businesses and property owners in the vicinity of Kass Circle and Spring Hill Drive are invited to a community design workshop Saturday to discuss ideas for a neighborhood revitalization project.
The mission: Create a blueprint for the future.
The Kass Circle neighborhood was the first mixed residential and multifamily area laid out in the original Spring Hill master plan. Located in southwest Spring Hill, it is centered on a business district that includes Spring Hill Plaza.
McNeese said many rezoning requests come before the planning and zoning board from the area and there are several single-family classifications seeking to change from residential to business.
"It's more busy than when it was first platted," she said.
The area also has apartments and duplexes and lacks sidewalks for people who walk or ride bicycles.
"It's just not user- friendly as far as mobility," McNeese said.
The University of South Florida's Florida Center for Community Design and Research will lead workshop participants in identifying opportunities for transforming the area into a vibrant "community center."
Participants are urged to arrive at 9 a.m. for orientation and general discussion. They will work directly with the design team to generate ideas for the business district, the immediate neighborhood and enhancements that could help transform the area into a safe, walkable and sustainable mixed-use district.
After the workshop, the USF team will develop a conceptual community design plan and bring it back to the neighborhood for more ideas.
The final master plan vision for the area will be presented to county commissioners for adoption as a growth and redevelopment strategy for the Kass Circle area.
County Commissioner Dave Russell said Spring Hill Plaza and its mix of stores was the hub of commerce in the formative years of Spring Hill.
There are many good businesses still there, Russell said, and the vision plan should benefit them.
County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said the visioning team should respect the history of the Kass Circle area and use that as a starting point as it tries to revamp its image.
"They need to discuss the history and ask if they can do something to put it back in its former glory," he said.
County Administrator Len Sossamon said he hopes Kass Circle will be the first of other revitalization projects for Hernando County.
Sossamon said he has met with the USF team in advance of Saturday's meeting.
Neighborhoods go through life cycles, where zoning classifications might need updating or residents and businesses must decide what they want the area to look like going forward, Sossamon said.
The Kass Circle workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 7421 Spring Hill Drive, in the Spring Hill Plaza space previously occupied by Paesano's Italian Bakery.
For more information, call McNeese at (352) 754-4057, ext. 28016, or email pmcneese@ hernandocounty.us.