BROOKSVILLE - The first retailer has committed to locating in the new Cortez Commons, a massive retail complex slated for the southwest corner of Mariner Boulevard and State Road 50.
Hobby Lobby, a family-owned chain specializing in arts and crafts, has submitted its building plans to the county and shows a 55,000-square-foot facility on one of the many parcels that will make up the shopping center. That is roughly the size of a Publix.
Founded in 1970, the Oklahoma-based chain has 588 stores across the nation. Construction on the Brooksville store could begin as early as the end of February.
Vince Parker, with Hobby Lobby, said in an email he anticipates a fall 2014 opening and he plans to hire 30-40 local employees for various positions. Pay for full-time employees starts at $14 per hour and part-timers start at $9.50 an hour.
"We feel that we can bring a very unique shopping experience to the area," Parker said of the Cortez Commons site. "We are looking forward to becoming part of the community."
Patrons will have two ways to access the new store: from State Road 50 and Mariner Boulevard.
To accommodate Hobby Lobby and other stores debuting at Cortez Commons, the county engineering department will re-align the traffic light located at the frontage road in the back of Mariner Square across the street that intersects at Mariner Boulevard.
Hobby Lobby is one of 10 merchants that have expressed an interest in locating at Cortez Commons.
The others include Longhorn Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Bob Evans, Wawa, Dick's Sporting Goods, DSW Shoe Warehouse, ULTA, Mattress Firm and Vitamin Shoppe.
Hobby Lobby is a Christian company and is closed Sundays. The chain made headlines recently when it announced it would fight one of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that would provide mandatory contraceptive care, including the "morning after" pill, to employees.
"The foundation of our business has been and will continue to be strong values based on biblical principles, including integrity, service to others and giving back to those in need," Parker said.
The closest Hobby Lobby is at the corner of Ridge and Little roads in Pasco County.
The Cortez Commons site is somewhat unusual because it meanders along the perimeter of two major roads. It has access off State Road 50 - by the CVS drugstore - and off Mariner Boulevard.
The land is owned by the late Hardy Huntley, a real estate developer and entrepreneur who owned a couple of thousand acres in Hernando County and the surrounding region.
Peter Creighton, representing Huntley's properties, told county commissioners recently that he realizes the complexities of the project, especially given the location and the traffic modifications that will have to be made. State Road 50 is currently being widened from four lanes to six.
Buddy Selph, broker with Tommie Dawson Realty, said plazas such as Cortez Commons create synergy in a community and draw other retailers who believe the customer base will support more stores.
The southwest corner of State Road 50 and Mariner is the part of the busy intersection to be developed.
The other corners are already home to Coastal Way Shopping Center, Western Way and Mariner Square.
"It's a testament to our community, as it continues to grow in population, that there are these services that are supported," Selph said.
Hobby Lobby is one of those stores, he said, that meets the needs of a specialized market, and it should do well.