BY STEPHANIE COSTOLO & RANDI FREMUTH | PHOTOS BY BOB THOMPSON, THOMPSON BRAND IMAGES
Major development plans are in the works for Pasco County, and not only are residents itching to hear the updates, but the plans are making national news. What has everyone so geared up? Greg Singleton, President of Metro Development Group, spoke with Resident Magazine about how Metro is building the first “Smart Gigabit Community” in the US from the ground up and launching Pasco County straight into the future. Connected City will be the first community in the nation to incorporate a series of fiber networks utilizing gigabit technology from the first moment of construction. Every home and building on the 7,800-acre planning area will have access to Metro Development Group’s ULTRAFi technology, which provides up to one gigabit internet speeds and is nearly 100x faster than today’s average speeds. The community will eventually include a whopping 37,000 homes and over 12 million square feet of commercial space for offices, retail, and technology manufacturing. Included in these plans are a wellness district, education center, and a series of man-made lagoons.
Metro Development Group is partnering with Florida Hospital and Tampa General Hospital to bring a wellness district into Connected City. The gigabit technology “will give the wellness district the potential to be at the forefront of digital modern medicine, with everything from tele-medicine to the ability for healthcare professionals to collaborate with experts seamlessly around the globe.” Plans for the district will include an innovation center, medical hospital, and a health and performance institute. The education center will benefit in much the same way. Metro Development Group is partnering with Saint Leo University and will be utilizing the technology for internet access and “allow students to complete specialized courses online from gigabit-connected classrooms and computer labs…and enable professors from all over the world to teach classes remotely, through a high-resolution, uninterrupted video connection.” The wellness district and the education center will take about 10 years to complete and will offer exciting opportunities to those who are involved in the medical and educational field.
Ultra-fast gigabit technology isn’t the only exciting development Connected City has in the works. It will also feature the first Crystal Lagoon in the US built by Crystal Lagoons. It will be located in the community of Epperson and expected completion will be in late 2017. The Crystal Lagoon is a multi-acre man-made lagoon, which will include swimming access, waterslides, jumping platforms, obstacle islands, and will allow kayaking and paddle boarding. The water is promised to be turquoise and crystal-clear using an ultrasound technology system that is sustainable, eco-friendly, and safe.
Connected City will be an ongoing project—expected completion will be about 50 years—but the first homes will be completed in the fall of 2017. The first community is Epperson and will have about 3,000 homes, and the second community will be Mirada, which will have about 5,000 homes; Mirada is expected to break ground in the spring of 2017.
Resident Magazine (RM): At what point will the development plan for Connected City include 37,000 homes?
Greg Singleton (GS): Connected city is broader than just our two projects, which are Epperson and Mirada. Connected City encompasses the whole area from Epperson, all the way up to State Road 52 and all the away over to I-75. Mirada will have 4,500 units and Epperson will have 3,000, so that’s about 7,500 units there. By 2050, the plans are to have 37,000 new homes built on that land.
RM: Are there going to be infrastructure changes to support the increased traffic volume?
GS: Yes, we’re building Overpass Road down to the end of Epperson, and then the county will eventually connect it with I-75, so there will be another interchange at I-75 and Overpass Road, which would be fantastic for that area.
RM: Metro seems to be pretty focused on doing things differently. Is that what is expected with the upcoming wellness district and education center?
GS: One of the things I always like to tell people is that it’s in our DNA at Metro to be innovative. It’s just not as exciting to do the same old, same old. We think about how it will be to live there and about what we could do that’s different… And how do we future-proof it? It started with technology, the Wi-Fi, and that has rolled into what we’ve done with West Florida Health and the hospitals and what we’re doing with the Lagoon. It’s more exciting and stimulating to do something fun like that.
RM: When does Mirada break ground?
GS: We actually started doing some earthwork at the end of February. We’ve got about 12 months of development, so it’s about 12 months behind Epperson.
RM: What can you tell us about the level of interest Metro has received about Epperson?
GS: One of our builders, D.R. Horton, has raised prices twice there already. There are 35 communities in Tampa, and one out of every four calls they are getting is about Epperson. They don’t even have the model homes done yet. It’s unusual to raise prices twice before you even have your model homes up. There have been people who don’t even live here in this area that have already bought houses in Epperson. Once we get that lagoon filled, people are going to be stunned by it. At Metro, we keep a database of people that have gone to our website and have said that they wanted more information about the Crystal Lagoons at Epperson. Since the groundbreaking, we’ve added over 700 new names to that list, which is unusual.
When developments of this size come into a community, it’s not often that the community members get to know who is behind the scenes. We live in the Information Age and have access to stats, details, news and opinions at any given moment; what we can’t always readily access are the motivations an individual has and the internal drive which propels him or her to success. When we ask about family, morning rituals and the best advice someone has received, we get a peek into their world. We are able to momentarily see life from another viewpoint and can apply that insight to our lives in order to move forward in the direction of our goals.
RM: We’re going to switch it up a bit and get to know you as Greg Singleton, the person. Tell me about your childhood and where you were born.
GS: I was born in Atlanta in the ‘60s, and I lived there until eighth grade. An interesting thing about my childhood is that at the end of the ‘60s, early ‘70s, my dad, Tim Singleton, at the time was the Dean of Men at Georgia State University, which is in downtown Atlanta. It was the height of the civil rights turmoil, and part of his job was to be the liaison, kind of like the entourage guy, to Martin Luther King Jr. MLK would come to Georgia State to speak, and my dad was the guy who would escort him around the campus. At the time, my dad was very involved with trying to integrate the fraternities. Black fraternities were off-campus and the white fraternities were on-campus, so he helped get them to integrate.
RM: Tell us about your family?
GS: My wife is Jeanette and we have been married 21 years. I have a son named Will, who is 17, and I have a daughter, Ansley, who’s ten. Ansley was actually adopted. It’s an interesting story. We were expecting the adoption process to take a long time; it usually does. They have to do things like a criminal background check or home checks, where they check to make sure you have the right number of smoke alarms in your house and so on. We thought we had some time, and we were on vacation in North Carolina when they called us. They told us a baby girl had been born, and the mother had two days to decide if she still wanted to choose adoption. We were on vacation, and we had no car seats, no diapers, no room painted, none of that kind of stuff. We literally got her right out of the hospital.
My mom’s name is Shelby and lives in Atlanta, and she was the first woman in her family to have a college degree. My dad is now deceased. An interesting thing about my dad was that he was a big runner, and he started the Peachtree Road Race, which is the largest 10k race in the world. They have 45,000 to 60,000 people running each year. When it started, people ran and only the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place runners received a trophy. My dad was a big believer in everybody getting something for being involved, so he came up with the idea to give the participants who ran under a certain time a t-shirt. The race started with a hundred people the first year, and then it grew and the Peachtree Road Race became this status symbol. I have an older brother, Tim. He’s two years older than me. He’s a successful banker in Huntsville, Alabama, and he has two great kids.
RM: What brought you to the Tampa area?
GS: I went to college in San Marcos, Texas and played basketball there. Then I moved back to Atlanta and had a job in banking for 20+ years. In 2000 I was transferred with what’s now Wells Fargo from Atlanta to Tampa, and then I stayed in banking for another 5 years.
RM: What prompted you to get into the development industry?
GS: I already had an interest in building. When I was living in Atlanta, I bought four lots in the historic district, and I built houses on each of those lots. It was a unique learning experience because everything had to be approved by historians. The houses had to be architecturally accurate, for example the style had to be Victorian or Queen Anne; they had to be authentic. I probably bit off more than I could chew. After building was complete and I was working on selling the houses, I was transferred to Tampa through my banking job. When I started working here in Tampa, I just watched what people were doing, and I decided at some point in my future I was going to go out on my own. I talked to one of my customers at the time, and he told me he’d be honored to partner with me. It just so happened that I was able to find a couple of deals right away. I found a deal in Gainesville, Florida, and we bought some apartments. We converted them into condos; we called them “kiddy condos.” Then, I bought some property to develop over in Clearwater, and that project killed me. We launched that product at the end of 2005, right when the market took a downturn. That was an expensive lesson. It wiped out about 10 years’ worth of savings. I’ve see the highs and lows of this business, and I’ve learned a lot. John, the owner and CEO of Metro, and I stayed in touch after I quit working for the bank; he was one of my clients. We met for drinks at one point; he told me he was looking for a president, and he wanted me for the job. John likes to get things done quickly, so we literally pinky swore over the terms that night, and then I went to work with him the next week. That was a little over ten years ago now.
RM: What’s your favorite sports team?
GS: I hate to admit it right now because it’s painful, but Atlanta Falcons followed by Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I’m an NFL fan.
RM: On the weekends when it’s time to relax, what are you typically doing?
GS: I like to play golf. I also like to watch my daughter ride horses. She rides Equestrian multiple days a week. My wife and I do date night typically on Friday or Saturday night. We like to go to the Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club; it has fantastic food and great service, so we go there a lot. We also mix it up. We like wine; we’re big wine fans.
RM: What are some of your weaknesses?
GS: According to my wife, lawn work [laughs]. I hate mowing the grass; I hate picking up leaves; I hate all of that kind of yard stuff. I don’t like making beds, but I’m pretty good about loading the dishwasher. In my work life, my biggest weakness is that I have the tendency to look at all of the perspectives. In a business deal or when you work with other people on projects, everyone has their own perspective or opinion on how things should go. I usually understand everyone’s perspective in these situations, which can get in the way when I’m making a decision. Sometimes it’s better to have more clarity about what you want and what you believe than to get bogged down by other people’s views. Recently, I went through some in-depth testing by a woman in St. Pete, Dr. Jen Hall, and I’ve been going through some executive leadership training. She ran these tests, and that’s basically what she found. I need to hear all of the information and need to know everyone’s perspective. I want to know all of the facts. For some people, you can give them a tiny bit of information, and they can make a decision; it has no effect on them. But, I want to hear all of the details. There could be a piece of information that comes in at the 11th hour, and I could just change my decision at that moment. That can be great, but it can also make things difficult. That’s probably one of the reasons why John and I work well together. He’s much more decisive and maybe I’m a little more thoughtful, so it’s a good ying and yang situation.
RM: Do you have a favorite quote?
GS: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” It’s a quote by Martin Luther King Jr.
RM: What are your morning rituals?
GS: I like to read. It’s my quiet time. I have the tendency to wake up pretty early. It’s not unusual for me to be up at 4:00 or 4:30am. The house goes crazy at about 6:15am with my son, daughter, wife and dog, so before that is my time that’s quiet, and I like to use that time to read. I just have a lot of intellectual curiosity about things. It can be the strangest things from a life hack that someone tells me about to something very spiritual—just getting new information. I like to read interviews and articles. If I have a good book going, it’s usually fiction. Reading is just one of those things where it’s a way for me to disengage.
RM: What was the last book you read?
GS: The last book I read was called Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I didn’t like it as much; it was okay. She has another book called, Leaving Time, which was much better.
RM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
GS: Continue to learn; don’t stagnate. It could be learning about anything, just don’t stand still.
RM: Have you ever received any bad advice?
GS: I gave myself bad advice when I decided to develop a condo project back in 2005 [laughs].
RM: What advice do you have for young adults who want to own or run a large company?
GS: That’s one of the things I’m really passionate about is the people that I work with. I do a lot of mentoring, and I’ve actually talked to some young leaders about this. I tell them that you really have to “manage up,” and I don’t mean suck up. I mean manage up. You need to understand what keeps your boss up at night, what kinds of challenges he or she has, and how you can help them solve their problems. People sort of have a tendency to think about themselves, but you have to change the dynamic and think about what you can do for your boss. It’s almost like paying it forward. If you do something for the boss, you’re going to improve and you’re going to get more opportunities. I think you’ve got to tell them what you want. There are some extraordinary bosses out there, but for the most part, they have a lot of challenges, so you’ve got to convince them to take an interest in you. You’ve got to find somebody that can mentor you; somebody that you want to be. You need to be able to reach out to them. Let’s say that you are a young woman in an area dominated by men. Find that other woman who’s done it and talk with her, and not just about what they’ve done well because they’ve obviously done well, but what mistakes they have made. History repeats itself but never in quite the same way.
RM: Thirty years from now, what do you want to be remembered for?
GS: I want to leave a legacy with my family, and I want to have prepared them for life. Have I prepared my son and daughter? Are they going to marry well and have a good family? It’s especially important with daughters; fathers have a huge impact on their daughters and their future relationships. When I’m gone, how have I left my wife? Have I left her in good shape or is she struggling? Have I provided properly for her? Did I balance my need for work and make sure I show up for the important things in the kids’ lives? How would they judge me?
RM: If you could put up a billboard anywhere and have it say anything, what would it say?
GS: The biggest thing for me in life is that there are certain people, and when you’re around them you kind of feel better about life. You walk away better from the experience. And then, there are other people that just suck the life out of you. Maybe it should say, “you should avoid life suckers [laughs].” To me, they literally and figuratively kill people. There are just certain people in the world that have really negative energy; they’re just toxic.
Greg Singleton with Metro Development Group is driving master-planned communities forward, starting right here in Wesley Chapel. With innovation at the helm, the question on his mind when planning the communities is ‘how will it be to live here?’ A family man like Greg knows the importance of providing a place to live that is not only safe and welcoming but enjoyable. A beautiful oasis right in their backyard.