HOLIDAY — Perhaps it's time for west Pasco to dream big.
That slice of the county has the highest concentration of businesses and residents. Its 10 percent foreclosure rate is also the county's highest. Its housing stock was built for retirees who have moved on and many neighborhoods lack a defining feature that creates a sense of place.
"It was very poor foresight in development," said Michael Fallon, a 76-year-old retired transportation manager from New York City.
That's what county growth management chief Richard Gehring is trying to fix. That's why he wants to dream big.
"People will ultimately create the community they want," he said Tuesday night during a community meeting to outline strategies to redevelop west Pasco. "The plan has to be big enough to be motivational."
County planners will hold three more meetings over the next month to gather more feedback on their ideas. Other stops include New Port Richey, Port Richey and Hudson.
Ideas include reconfiguring some stretches of U.S. 19, improving access to parks along the Gulf of Mexico and creating central gathering points in neighborhoods that give people a sense of civic pride.
The riverwalk idea
The dozen or so residents who attended Tuesday's meeting largely liked what they heard. One popular idea is creating a river walk between downtown New Port Richey and a new discernible downtown Port Richey at the mouth of Miller's Bayou.
"The river walk is a great idea," said Jon Hyland, a Realtor at Coldwell Banker in New Port Richey. "The more we can utilize the coast, the better chance of bringing money into the area."
Hyland said building community support for the ideas is key to finding the money to pay for pricey redevelopment costs.
Gehring's staff split west Pasco into a dozen areas to come up with plans for each one.
Take the so-called Embassy District, a residential epicenter east of U.S. 19 between Ridge Road and State Road 52. It's the most densely populated part in the county with more than seven people per acre.
One goal is to realign some streets into a grid pattern to improve traffic flow and encourage walking. The area could also see more small neighborhood parks like Lake Lisa Park.
Or consider what officials have dubbed Anclote West, a small area that includes a Progress Energy power plant and three parks. (Most of Holiday's neighborhoods are grouped in a separate area.)
The county wants to improve access to the parks. One idea is to run ferries to Anclote Key Preserve State Park so residents don't have to head to Tarpon Springs.
Another idea is to divert a planned $1 billion for three Pinellas-style overpasses at major intersections on U.S. 19. Instead, the county wants to ask the state Department of Transportation to use that money to create a "multi-way boulevard" at key points. Lanes in the center would be for longer trips while access roads would handle local traffic.
Cutting down on traffic
Under that plan, buildings would hug sidewalks and parking would be concentrated in garages and lots away from main roads. That would encourage people to walk to shops and create a more pleasant streetscape.
"The county should not be wasting that money on the overpasses," said Jack Murphy, a 71-year-old retiree from Holiday. "It could be much better used."
Murphy acknowledges that retirees like him no longer dominate west Pasco. Younger families have moved in, and many are struggling because of the Great Recession.
"People living here, some of them just can't afford cars," he said, calling for expanded bus service. "I watch these people in our neighborhood, and they're just hanging on."
Lee Logan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6236.