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New Port Richey council to weigh options on stalled Main Street Landing project

NEW PORT RICHEY — The way Main Street Landing developer Ken McGurn sees it, he has three basic options for his unfinished downtown project.

He could sell the project to the city. He could get a city loan to finish the shell of the concrete building. Or he could just seal up the shell and have it painted with murals.

Nearly three months after the city threatened to sue him over the stalled construction site, McGurn tonight will bring those options before City Council members, who are sitting as directors of the Community Redevelopment Agency.

The meeting begins at 7.

All three options would require city money.

In one scenario, the city would buy Main Street Landing at an unspecified price, with the developer financing a no-money-down sale. McGurn said the 3-acre property has more than $8.5 million invested in it.

Under a second scenario, the city would offer Main Street Landing a five-year loan of up to $350,000 this fiscal year and up to $1.1 million next year toward the cost of finishing the building, which would house 15 storefronts. The city and developer would also team up on an incentive package to entice commercial tenants.

A third option is for Main Street Landing to match a $20,000 city grant to install panels in the door and window openings, and pay artists to paint scenes on the panels. The construction fence would come down. The goal would be to improve the site's appearance until McGurn could resume construction.

The city has about $875,000 budgeted for Main Street Landing in the current year, City Manager Tom O'Neill said. That money is part of the $1.25 million financial incentive McGurn would have received had he finished the project this month.

This is McGurn's first appearance at City Hall since October, when he told council members that he wanted to finish the shell of the building but had no time line. He had shut down construction in the summer of 2006 after costs escalated and he failed to win additional financial help from the city.

By early December, the city attorney had drafted a lawsuit against McGurn, asking for permission to demolish the construction project once heralded as downtown's coming jewel. The complaint called the construction site an eyesore, a public nuisance and a health hazard.

City officials said the tough talk came only after negotiations went nowhere and McGurn had shown little evidence of moving ahead.

McGurn said the proposed lawsuit came out of nowhere: He had hired an engineer and an architect to work on plans to finish the shell, and had been checking in with city administrators every week between Sept. 9 and Nov. 30.

But at least for tonight, both sides say they want to find a compromise that will keep everybody out of a courtroom.

Mayor Scott McPherson said that even if council members decide none of the options works, "at least it's a dialogue and maybe it'll lead to something."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

If You go

3 options on table

The New Port Richey City Council meets at 7 tonight. The council will discuss three options for Main Street Landing: buy it, offer a five-year loan to finish the building or seal the building and paint it with murals.

New Port Richey council to weigh options on stalled Main Street Landing project 03/09/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 9, 2009 9:03pm]
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