NEW PORT RICHEY — The emergence of a developer pledging to spend millions in cash to redevelop the historic Hacienda Hotel has New Port Richey leaders talking of selling the city-owned landmark.
During a meeting Tuesday, the New Port Richey City Council voted unanimously to enter into negotiations to solidify an offer by Yaakov and Abraham Rosner to redevelop the Hacienda into a 30-room boutique hotel within 18 months. The Rosners did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for comment.
Yaakov Rosner told the council two weeks ago that his Israel-based family foundation has $2 million in cash set aside for the project if the city agrees to move forward with his son, Abraham, who recently renovated a 100-room hotel in Yulee called Florida Hotel.
The offer led the City Council to fast-track putting an item on the agenda Tuesday to begin negotiations as the city is facing the deterioration of a beloved landmark it has owned since 2004. At the time, flush with cash, New Port Richey eyed redeveloping the Hacienda, but the economic downturn crushed those hopes and the building has since sat empty.
"We've been running a non-profit for 10 years," said council member Bill Phillips of the debt the city has incurred on the Hacienda.
The Rosners' offer had raised questions as to whether they want to buy the Hacienda and redevelop it or enter into a private/public partnership with the city, but the mystery was put to rest Tuesday by New Port Richey Economic Development director Mario Iezzoni.
"They want to buy to building," he told the City Council.
Last year, Phillips spurred a community cleanup of the Hacienda that drew hundreds of people. He said this week that he would support a sale if the Rosners agree to preserve the history of the hotel in their redevelopment effort.
"I don't know about you, but money talks," Phillips said.
In other news, the City Council approved a special zoning exception that paves the way for a new charter school to open in August at 5396 School Road. The Learning Lodge Academy is slated to have 280 students from K-3, with hopes of expanding to up to 480 students from K-5.
Also, the council approved a master plan for the downtown's Sims Park that will pave the way for construction of a new playground with three splash pads. The new playground is planned on the northern end of the park adjacent to Grand Boulevard, across from Orange Lake.