NEW PORT RICHEY — The long-stalled Main Street Landing site will welcome a new and rarely seen visitor downtown — a construction crane.
Monday morning, a crew will begin unloading and laying the precast concrete planks for one of the project's second floors, allowing workers to build vertically atop what was to be the centerpiece of downtown redevelopment.
If this were any other time, or any other project, a new concrete floor might not be seen as such a big deal. But Main Street Landing, which has struggled for years to stay afloat, gained new life this summer when Gainesville developer Ken McGurn pledged to invest about $500,000 by year's end to see it completed.
McGurn said seven full-time workers have been pouring foundations, building stairwells and balcony columns, and installing underground plumbing at the site on the Pithlachascotee River in recent months, though much of it has been concealed from the road.
"The work has been hidden. … Some people didn't even know we were doing something there," McGurn said Wednesday. "Monday morning, when people come to work and go down Main Street, they're going to see a big crane sitting there. It's going to be very, very visible."
McGurn said he has spent about $385,000 since March on wages, supplies, subcontractors, property taxes and city fees at the site. Because of additional construction in December, he expects another $100,000 in costs. In January, he expects his monthly construction spending to double from $20,000 to $40,000 a month.
Notwithstanding about $100,000 in stimulus labor payments that expired in September, much of that money has come from McGurn's pocket — though, at an estimated project total of $20 million, he expects he'll need a big investor before the ribbon is cut.
Though the project has not kept to the time line proposed to city leaders in July — the crane was to have installed the second floor by Halloween — McGurn said the building shell is on course to have a third floor and roof by April or May.
Proposed in 2004 as a riverside retail center and condo complex, the site will add three more buildings by 2014 "to match the market recovery," he said.
"We're not rushing to do this," he said. "We don't need to. …There's no one out there to buy it or rent it yet."
City Council members said they're happy to hear the project is still under way but remain guardedly optimistic.
"He's at least been trying to do something. Given the economy, I'm sure it hasn't been comfortable for him," Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe said. "I would just like to see the thing fashioned into some form that isn't an eyesore."
Drew Harwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6244.