NEW PORT RICHEY — Yaakov Rosner came a long way to make a big offer to a City Council hungry to redevelop the cherished but crumbling historic Hacienda Hotel.
The Israeli investor said he flew in all the way from Jerusalem to say he has $2 million in cash set aside to throw at redeveloping the city-owned hotel. He also added that while his family foundation in Israel has "substantial funds" for the project, there is a deadline of June 20 for the city to decide whether to enter into an agreement with his son, Abraham, who has lobbied the city for months to redevelop the 1920s downtown hotel.
"Time is money for us," Rosner said, standing at a podium with his son. "Without specific direction I can't let significant funds lay idol."
Abraham Rosner has experience with hotel renovation in Florida, most recently completing a full redevelopment of the 100-room Florida Hotel in Yulee. His father told the council that the project was such a success that he did not hesitate to fly in from Israel to support his son's latest ambition to do the same for the Hacienda.
If the city approves an agreement, Yaakov Rosner said he plans to buy his son a home in New Port Richey so he can live near the hotel and oversee the project from start to finish. Abraham Rosner then added he hopes to re-open the Hacienda as a boutique hotel within 18 to 24 months.
The proposal garnered serious interest from the council especially after the board learned that another firm in the running, Legacy Lodging LLC., of Birmingham, Ala., has missed deadlines set for providing financials, and has been slow to respond to emails and phone calls, according to city Economic Development Director Mario Iezzoni.
For months, Iezzoni has been seeking to collect financial information from both Rosner and Legacy so the council can officially pick its top firm. The ranking decision will be on the agenda for a vote June 3.
"I would rank you No. 1 at this point," council member Jeff Starkey told the Rosners.
In other news:
• The council is calling on local retailers to stop selling and marketing fruit- and candy-flavored tobacco products to youths.
On Tuesday, the council heeded a call from a local student-run group called Students Working Against Tobacco, or SWAT, to pass a resolution urging retailers not to market and sell tobacco products to the young.
Mayor Rob Marlowe added that statistics show tobacco is the cause of nearly 500,000 deaths a year and the resolution states "almost 90 percent of all tobacco users begin smoking before the age of 18."
The unanimous vote for the resolution came after an impassioned presentation from SWAT members that included pictures from local convenience stores of apple and grape-flavored tobacco on counters and some tobacco products that look like breath mints. Following Pasco County and San Antonio, the city is the third local government agency from which SWAT has successfully obtained a resolution.
• Organizations that wish to host events co-sponsored by the city between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30, 2015, must apply by June 1.
The New Port Richey Special Event Sponsorship Program is designed to provide funds to local organizations to assist them in the production of local special events that promote New Port Richey as a destination for visitors, promote local businesses, impact the city's economy and provide family-friendly programs. Request a special event sponsorship application at City Hall, 5919 Main Street; by phone at (727) 853-1024; or by email at email@example.com.
For more information, call (727) 853-1024.