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Two redevelopers asking New Port Richey for more time get contrasting reactions

NEW PORT RICHEY — One right after the other, representatives of two downtown projects that have dragged on for years came before City Council members on Tuesday.

Both asked for the city's patience. Only one got it with a smile.

First came Jeffrey Dollinger, a Gainesville lawyer representing the stalled Main Street Landing complex of condos and shops. He got involved late last year after city officials started talking about suing developer Ken McGurn over his project, which has sat partially finished in downtown since the summer of 2006.

Dollinger told council members, who were sitting as directors of the Community Redevelopment Agency, that McGurn would attend the March 10 meeting and hoped to present a plan for finishing the project. Or maybe a plan for demolishing what's already there, something that would cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Dollinger said he hoped to avoid a lawsuit. "The question is," he said, "am I too late?"

Council members, who have been unsuccessfully pushing McGurn to at least finish the building shell, responded with phrases like "11th hour attempt" and "eyesore." (A preliminary proposal to revive the project by creating a special taxing district, which was pushed last month by former mayor Peter Altman, has gone nowhere.)

"Our frustrations aren't just (from) our board. Our frustrations are (from) our citizens," said council member Bob Consalvo. "We've been given the same story over and over."

But about McGurn coming to New Port Richey next month? Fine. They'll wait.

Dollinger sat down, and up to the podium came John Tennison, an architect and partner of the team that wants to redevelop and reopen the city-owned Hacienda Hotel. He asked for another extension, this time for six months, on the preliminary development agreement with the city.

The team, Georgia-based Community Development Partners Inc., first pitched its proposal to renovate and expand the hotel in late 2006.

On Tuesday, the group was asking for permission to postpone until mid-2009 a hotel market study, which would be the first step in attracting lenders. The developers say that doing the analysis now would reflect the poor economy and, consequently, lenders would be hesitant to give them any financing.

Council members agreed. Council member Marilynn deChant called the Hacienda project a "shining example" of downtown redevelopment. Mayor Scott McPherson said the developers have kept an "excellent" line of communication with city officials.

"We appreciate your patience," Tennison told council members earlier. "I certainly understand your frustration with projects that drag on."

Two redevelopers asking New Port Richey for more time get contrasting reactions 02/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 11, 2009 10:17pm]
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