NEW PORT RICHEY — City officials are anxious to ramp up redevelopment efforts of the Hacienda Hotel amid fears the historic structure could otherwise deteriorate beyond repair.
Five years ago, Community Development Partners of Georgia proposed renovating the city-owned building into a boutique hotel along Main Street. But the city's agreement with the firm has long expired.
At a City Council workshop Tuesday evening, City Manager John Schneiger said he has asked the developers to sign a term sheet agreement that would set deadlines for the completion of various steps toward getting the project off the ground, including submission of a development agreement and site plan.
So far Community Development Partners has not signed on to the terms. Schneiger said a big sticking point is a provision requiring the developer to immediately conduct structural work on the vacant 1920s building, as it is crumbling and in danger of being lost forever.
The council authorized Schneiger to negotiate the agreement further while waiting for the blessing from state and federal historic site regulators. But frustration brewed among council members who wanted to see something done before the building deteriorates so much it cannot be renovated.
"I don't feel they've really done anything," Mayor Bob Consalvo said of the developers.
Officials are eager to get the ball rolling on several redevelopment projects that have languished.
The council agreed to move toward seeking requests for qualifications from developers to build a 25- to 40-unit residential complex on the former First Baptist Church property, which the city bought in 2005 for $3.1 million. The project, dubbed the Residences at Orange Lake, would sit on about 2 acres at Central Avenue and Circle Boulevard, overlooking Orange Lake.
"We think this is an exceptional site," said the city's Orlando-based real estate consultant Thomas Kohler. "This is a beautiful piece of property."
Schneiger also announced that Gainesville developer Ken McGurn has agreed to sign an agreement with the city for completing the streetscaping work on Main Street Landing, a mixed residential/commercial development that has long been stalled at Main Street and River Road.
The city has agreed to spend up to $200,000 to complete streetscaping improvements on public portions of the development, including sidewalk improvements, street lighting, sewer and landscaping, while McGurn has agreed pay for matching streetscaping on private portions of the development.
At the same time, McGurn has also agreed to complete the shell of his development and finish the roof, as well as adding windows and doors. The measure is an effort to improve what council members have called an eyesore at New Port Richey's gateway.
"It's an aesthetics issue, in that it's been unsightly," Schneiger said.
It remains up in the air when the entire development will be completed and can be inhabited by tenants, he said.
Still, Consalvo said he'd take small steps over no movement at all."Even if they're little steps, it's better than nothing," he said. "This could be the re-birth of New Port Richey."