NEW PORT RICHEY — After years of acrimony and frustration over the long-stalled Main Street Landing project, the city and owner Ken McGurn are again talking about reaching a development agreement.
It has been almost 10 years since the City Council first approved the condo and retail project on the Cotee River's west bank, which was hailed as the cornerstone of downtown-wide redevelopment efforts.
But since that approval the project has seen skyrocketing construction costs followed by the collapse of the real estate market in 2008. Relations between the city and McGurn later got so bad that New Port Richey threatened to sue him for not living up to an initial development agreement.
In recent years, McGurn pumped $1 million into completing the outer shell and roof on the portion of the project facing Main Street. The city followed suit by completing a $248,000 streetscape in front of the development including railings, new curb cuts and sidewalks, trees, tree grates, landscaping and light fixtures.
The completion of the streetscape brought McGurn back to city hall last week to announce to council that negotiations with staff to get the project going again have been positive and that an outline for development plans could be produced within a month. That would be followed by 30 to 90 days to complete a final development agreement.
"I'm excited," McGurn told the council. "For the first time in a while, I really think I can see some opportunity to do this thing economically."
McGurn said he's interested in initially renting retail space to people in the art community seeking studio and educational space downtown, according to New Port Richey economic development manager Mario Iezzoni
"I have had several people express interest in growing the arts community in the city," Iezzoni said. "The next step will be finding an entity that can provide assurances to the developer that they will be financially viable for a certain amount of time."
Another change: McGurn is now looking to rent the condos, should they be completed, instead of putting them up for sale. Bringing in retail will also be a challenge as the city is consistently working on filling existing empty storefronts downtown, according to Iezzoni.
"There are several scenarios we have been working on," he said. "It's a very complex project, but there is a lot of excitement being generated."