NEW PORT RICHEY — The city has completed a rezoning package that it hopes will kick-start the long-stalled downtown Main Street Landing project while also protecting a slice of land to ensure expansion of the James E. Grey Preserve wilderness park.
During a meeting Tuesday night, the New Port Richey City Council rezoned a little more than 3 acres adjacent to Grey Preserve that will help Main Street Landing developer Ken McGurn restart work on his project, which has remained a shell since work stalled in 2007 amid the country's economic collapse.
The city first approved Main Street Landing — just east of U.S. 19 on Main Street — in 2004 as a mixed-use residential and commercial development. It would be along the key downtown corridor on the city's waterfront, and was considered, at the time, one of the cornerstones of the city's fledgling redevelopment effort and a significant private-sector investment in downtown. Construction, however, ground to a halt amid the real estate bust, and the agreement with the city expired.
In November, the city agreed to a new development deal by pledging to kick in more than $1.7 million in incentives. The incentives would include a payment of more than $1.4 million once the developer obtains a certificate of occupancy on 90 percent of the units, within 3½ years. The city also would provide $256,240 in water and sewer credits and waive $43,000 in permit fees. In addition, New Port Richey would pay for construction of a $118,793 seawall on the property.
McGurn told the council Tuesday that, pending the city's permitting process, he could begin work on the first phase of the project in September, with completion 15 to 18 months later. It would finish the three-story shell that fronts Main Street, which is slated for first-floor retail and 14 residential units on the second and third floors. Eventually, the project calls for three buildings holding up to 95 units, 12 docks and 26 boat slips in four phases.
As another incentive, the council on Tuesday also authorized the transfer of development rights for 34 units from a city-owned property in order to give McGurn the ability to build the number of units he has proposed for Main Street Landing.
That property — 6.93 acres — was purchased by the city in January 2015 at Congress Street and Louisiana Avenue, adjacent to its 80-acre slice of old Florida, Grey Preserve.
The plan is to expand the preserve, using the land. So the city transferred some of the developments rights it holds for 97 units attached to the property to Main Street Landing. The rest of the units the city holds rights to could also be transferred at a later date to other development projects.
As part of that approval, with the riverfront land zoned for a mobile home park, the council changed its designation to government use, and passed a land-use change making it recreation/open space, ensuring it will be park land. Hopes are to turn it into an entrance to Grey Preserve. In addition, in early June, the city also bought another adjacent 7 acres for $80,000 from the Florida Wildlife Federation to add to the preserve's acreage.
Deputy Mayor Bill Phillips called the moves "good stewardship," as they will protect riverfront land from the possibility of a mobile home park. He also said that while he has concerns over future parking issues at Main Street Landing, the project needs to move forward.
"We really would like to see this facility moving on," Phillips said.