NEW PORT RICHEY — City leaders have approved up to $250,000 in grant money to spur a joint venture between a real estate investment company and grocery business owners looking to move their store to downtown New Port Richey.
During a meeting Tuesday night, the New Port Richey Community Redevelopment Agency, which is made up of City Council members, approved the initial grant from a program it launched in March to try to encourage redevelopment of the city's aging real estate stock downtown. Dubbed the Commercial Real Estate Redevelopment Program, it is geared toward offering economic incentives to investors in projects of $500,000 or more in the city's redevelopment district, which covers nearly the entire city.
The program's first customers are looking to redevelop one of the more prominent buildings downtown, at 5800 Main St. Built in the 1950s, it most recently housed an antique shop, but originally provided the community a grocery store until the 1980s. The proposed project is a joint venture between 5800 Main LLC, owned by developers Frank Starkey and Jose Cardenas, and Jeff and Kathy Wright, who are looking to move their organic grocery store, Wright's Natural Market, at 6630 U.S. 19, downtown as the building's anchor tenant.
The city's grant program would help refurbish the building, which 5800 Main LLC estimates will cost more than $900,000. The Wrights also estimate kicking in another $286,000, bringing the project total to about $1.2 million, according to city documents.
Members of the CRA board agreed to provide up to $150,000 to 5800 Main LLC to help with renovations, and enter into a development agreement with the Wrights, with a cap of $100,000, to relocate their business and assist with other expenses.
Plans call for Wright's Natural Market to take up 3,500 square feet of the 9,600-square-foot building, with hopes of eventually filling the entire space, according to the store's application.
Jeff Wright told the CRA that in addition to what the current store already offers, plans are to expand the store's organic produce section, bring in more local growers and cottage product makers who can sell their wares in the store, and open a sidewalk cafe with an organic barista station, smoothie bar and "grab and go food."
The decision to approve the grant funding came after the City Council, earlier in the meeting, approved a rezoning for another of Frank Starkey's projects — construction of apartments downtown overlooking Orange Lake.
It is a project that has brought some opposition from the public over traffic and parking concerns. But the apartments fit with the council's desire to redevelop downtown into a walkable neighborhood that will attract young professionals, and Starkey's proposals — including plans for the grocery store — have drawn the council's favor.
"I think it is going to be a real boon for the downtown," said Mayor Rob Marlowe.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Jose Cardenas, co-owner of a building at 5800 Main St. in New Port Richey, who obtained approval for grant money from the city of New Port Richey on May 16 to improve the building, has completed abatement of asbestos contamination in the structure. A story published May 19 included incorrect information about the status of abatement because of inaccurate information in city documents.