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New Port Richey gets grant for downtown

For members of New Port Richey's Community Cooperative, the third time is a charm. New Port Richey received word Thursday that the city won a statewide grant from the Main Street Florida program to help redevelop its downtown. It was the city's third time to apply for the grant, said Marilynn deChant, cooperative executive director.

"I'm elated," Mrs. deChant said. "We really felt confident the whole time, but I sure am relieved."

The grant, administered by the Historic Preservation Board, will give $10,000 to the city for downtown improvements, such as new facades, signs or trees. The city also will receive advice from downtown redevelopment experts for the next three years.

The New Port Richey Community Cooperative is a group of business owners and citizens dedicated to revitalizing the city's downtown. Although the grant will go to the city, the cooperative will decide how the money is spent.

New Port Richey was the top finisher of the five cities competing for the three grants this year. The two other winners were New Smyrna Beach and Haines City. Brooksville and Auburndale also participated.

Board members awarded the city the grant because they like many of their programs, including its downtown festivals, Art in the Park program and the general momentum created for downtown redevelopment, Mrs. deChant said.

For Mrs. deChant, the compliments brought a measure of encouragement to a group that worked mostly on its own.

"Sometimes you wonder if you are going in the right direction," she said. "It is good reinforcement."

Main Street Florida is a state program to rescue decaying or static commercial cores of small cities. In New Port Richey, the downtown redevelopment area runs from U.S. 19 through Main Street to Madison Street, north to Sims Park and south to Gulf Drive.

Cooperative members barely have time to catch their breath before being thrust back into the redevelopment stream, Mrs. deChant said. She must attend a meeting Monday in Lake City about the Main Street program, as well as complete paper work for the grant.