NEW PORT RICHEY — City officials have officially cut ties with the Jacksonville firm that wanted to redevelop the Hacienda Hotel.
Community Development Partners wanted to restore and expand the city-owned historic building into an upscale boutique hotel and spa with a restaurant and meeting space. After six years of negotiations, legal hurdles to expansion efforts and the challenges of a down economy, however, the landmark 1927 building remains vacant and has only deteriorated.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to send a letter to CDP vice president Andrew Ham informing him that New Port Richey "plans to seek other options" for developing the hotel. Council members thanked Ham and CDP for their work over the years, but said immediate action needed to be taken on the property.
Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe noted the economic collapse in particular had made it difficult for the project to move forward.
"They came in at probably the worst time in the last 50 years to try to complete a project like this," he said.
Council member Bill Phillips said he wanted to move on from CDP so the city could market the project with no encumbrances.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Ham said he was disappointed with the council's decision, but expressed hope for the Hacienda's success. He also left the door open for the city to rekindle negotiations with CDP. Ham estimated his company spent $250,000 over the years on architect fees, market studies and personnel time trying to move the project forward.
"We're disappointed that negotiations didn't keep going. We didn't have a binding agreement so either party is obviously free to move on," Ham said. "We wish the city well. And should they change their minds, we would be happy to sit down with them again."
The city purchased the Hacienda Hotel for $2.21 million in 2004, hoping to make it a cornerstone of a downtown redevelopment effort. But previous plans to turn the building into a lecture hall or a bed-and-breakfast fell apart. Then CDP proposed expanding the Hacienda into a 93-room boutique hotel with restaurant and retail spaces, plus a conference area and spa.
City officials are now planning to hold a community cleanup day — perhaps next month — in which volunteers can tidy up the building inside and out, in order to get the first two floors available for prospective buyers or renters to tour.
Marlowe said if reaction to recent media reports of the planned community cleanup is any indication, it will be a good day for the Hacienda.
"This is going to be a community project to end all community projects," he said.