Here at Just Wright Citrus we work our fingers to the bone getting to the crux of Citrus County politics.
And I know a lot of it reads like a civics lesson. The one we all slept through in 11th grade.
“My gosh,” readers say, “can’t you write about something we CARE about?”
You mean like Rural King?
With all the hullabaloo about the Crystal River Mall’s future, and everyone saying Rural King is separate from the mall, it threw folks for a loop to find out Tuesday on the Just Wright Citrus Facebook page that the store is leasing 63,000 square feet across the county at the Inverness Regional Shopping Center.
For what purpose, we don’t know. It’s important we keep that in mind. We don’t know why Rural King is leasing the former Kmart space in Inverness.
It’s fun to speculate but I’ll refrain from that here. I made sure to keep the Facebook post straightforward as much as possible. The info is solid and I’m confident more is to come.
Why, you may ask, would you let us know that Rural King is leasing space in Inverness without waiting to tell us the whole story?
I’ll tell you why: I didn’t want to wait.
I don’t know what Rural King has in mind, or the prospective new owners of the Crystal River Mall, or any of the other speculative moves being pondered throughout Citrus County.
Boy, the landscape in this county is definitely changing.
I moved to Citrus in February 1987 as the county was undergoing a pretty significant growth swing. Beverly Hills was established and Citrus Hills on its way, but that was it, outside the traditional communities — Inverness, Crystal River, Homosassa, Floral City, etc.
The Crystal River Mall opened in 1990 and what an addition that was. It drew plenty of attention to development in that part of the county…but it never materialized. We know about Betz Farm but there are other large tracts, including the one being developed as an RV park now, that were planned for traditional housing.
Instead, the growth pushed inward to Citrus Springs, Pine Ridge, Black Diamond and the Citrus Hills communities.
And it was still pretty spread out. I used to tell people there’s 100,000 people in this county and I don’t know where they all live. The combined populations of Crystal River and Inverness always hovered around 11,000, and everyone else spread from Sugarmill Woods to Holder.
Now we have 150,000 and we know they’re all on S.R. 44 at 10 in the morning.
New homesites don’t tend to excite folks, but the opening of big stores or restaurants certainly do. I remember the celebrations for the opening of the Walmart Supercenter in Inverness, Applebee’s in Inverness, the Home Depot in Crystal River. A new Publix always draws a crowd and I never heard of Wawa until it opened and the politicians showed up.
I started seeing the real chance for commercial change when the county widened the intersection of County Roads 491/486. That’s now a true urban intersection, with big wide turns and plenty of space to spread out.
Walmart got in there first, followed by the McDonald’s outparcel. Then the Wawa and a Wendy’s. Now we see what’s happening on the Walmart property and we know Target is anchoring a shopping center planned across the street.
It was just a country intersection not all that long ago. Fields for cows to graze.
I don’t know what’s to become of our old friend Crystal River Mall. The tenants were told they need to get out by the end of August, so it seems something is in the works.
This is a fascinating time to live in Citrus County. Some of the landscape change gives me pause, and I can get caught up in the sky-is-falling growth rhetoric pretty easily.
But any county that perks up at the mere mention of Rural King will be just fine.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.