Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

New Port Richey considers keeping Hacienda Hotel in city hands

NEW PORT RICHEY — The city's efforts to sell the historic Hacienda Hotel — a downtown landmark that remains a blank slate for redevelopment efforts — haven't gone anywhere, Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe said.

So he argued for a new course of action:

"Let's keep control of the place," Marlowe said.

Several residents offered their ideas for the 1920s hotel at the City Council workshop Tuesday evening. People spoke of a restaurant opening there. Some thought of the Hacienda as great place for weddings, business conferences, or with its proximity to the city waterfront, a hub for eco-tourism.

But unlike previous workshops, there was no call for the city to hurry up and sell the building. To the contrary, several residents urged the city to fix up the building and lease it to tenants — but still keep the historic building in public hands.

"I was thinking you were going to tell us to get out of the real estate market," a surprised Mayor Bob Consalvo told the crowd.

Former Mayor Wendy Brenner said she believed that the ground floor of the hotel, which holds a kitchen and dining hall, could quickly be fixed up and the city could begin offering space.

"I think it's wonderful the residents want to keep the property, but it's going to be a costly keep," she said.

The city spent $2.21 million back in 2004 to buy the hotel, which has sat vacant and deteriorating for most of the years since. Previous plans to turn the building into a lecture hall or a bed-and-breakfast fell apart, and the city recently cut ties with Community Development Partners, a private firm that had proposed expanding the Hacienda into a 93-room boutique hotel with restaurant and retail spaces, plus a conference area and spa.

With that plan abandoned, city officials have changed their focus to stabilizing the building and finding ways to bring in revenue to put toward the debt service.

In January, more than 350 volunteers spent a Saturday pulling weeds, yanking out old carpet, scrubbing the kitchen and former hotel rooms, and priming the exterior for a new coat of paint. Some volunteers returned Feb. 23 to add fresh paint and make other repairs.

Council member Bill Phillips said he believes that once it's renovated, the Hacienda can generate revenue for the city by providing rental space for businesses or special events.

"Listen, I ran on the platform that I wanted to see the city get out of the real estate market, and I still believe we need to do that with other properties," Phillips said. "But this is the centerpiece of our city and we need to do this right. Once we get it rolling then we can look at our options."

Phillips said a community cleanup helped crystalize the public's desire for the city to save the building.

"When people are investing their time, then they start to feel ownership," he said.

People are not only investing their time, but money. The Pasco Economic Development Council — which the city hired to provide a marketing plan and small business assistance within the city — has begun a donation drive to pay for a costly assessment needed of the building's structural stability and air quality.

The study will be key to obtaining a certificate of occupancy for the building, which will be essential to moving forward, according to PEDC president and CEO John Hagen.

The online fundraising effort is at citizinvestor.com, a website that facilitates donor drives for civic projects. The Hacienda Hotel is featured on the home page. A click on that window takes visitors to another page dedicated to the hotel, with video of the recent cleanups as well as historical information on the building.

The drive seeks to generate $37,800 for the initial study. Eight days into the 90-day effort, more than $1,600 has been raised. Donors' credit cards will not be charged until the goal number of dollars has been reached.

Citizens can also donate by check to Hacienda renovation efforts at City Hall, 5919 Main St., said Interim City Manager Susan Dillinger.

Comments
Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

ST. PETERSBURG — Three people forced their way into a St. Petersburg house before dawn Sunday before gunfire broke out, killing a suspect and injuring two residents, police said.About 5:30 a.m., the people arrived at a house in Childs Park, on the 41...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Making the case for more drones

Making the case for more drones

BLACKSBURG, Va. - They considered how well everyone slept the night before. They considered the chances a military jet might scream by on a training mission. They considered the farmer in the field.Then they considered some more.After making it throu...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

LEXINGTON, Va. - Stephanie Wilkinson was at home Friday evening - nearly 200 miles from the White House - when the choice presented itself.Her phone rang about 8 p.m. It was the chef at the Red Hen, the tiny farm-to-table restaurant that she co-owned...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG — With all that's been said, tweeted, ranted and written on these pages and elsewhere about the Rays' odd, unorthodox, weird and some days downright wacky pitching plan, this might be the craziest thing yet:It's working.Like, rea...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

There are many unanswered questions and discrepancies about the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that has led to his upcoming three-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.The Bucs won't ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

A t his introductory news conference after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucs in 2015, Jameis Winston said to judge him on his actions moving forward."Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have hear...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Published: 06/23/18
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Published: 06/23/18
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Published: 06/23/18

Strangers are coming together to honor two killed in Bayshore crash

TAMPA — John Reisinger has seen miracles since his niece and 21-month-old grand-niece were killed while trying to cross Bayshore Boulevard 30 days ago. Some, he says, are too painful to talk about. Others he’s still trying to make sense of, such as h...
Published: 06/23/18