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New luster planned for an old landmark

Grants totaling more than $250,000 are expected to revive some of the long-dormant gleam and elegance of the former Hacienda Hotel.

Gulf Coast Community Care, which owns the building and operates a mental health facility there, has been awarded two state grants totaling $55,000 and a Community Development Block Grant for $200,000 by Pasco County.

It plans to start renovations in a couple of months on the 1924 hotel that played host to the likes of Gloria Swanson, Irving Berlin and Babe Ruth.

"This is important," said David Spriggs, president of the West Pasco Historical Society. "The whole downtown area is being renovated, and it's right there at the crossroads of downtown."

The pink, Mediterranean Revival building is on Main Street at Bank Street.

Gulf Coast, a non-profit organization, has operated the former hotel as the Hacienda Home since 1990. It has 69 residents who are making the adjustment back into the mainstream from mental health hospitals. They learn how to go about banking, grocery shopping and other routine tasks.

Residents will not have to leave during the renovation, which is expected to take six months, said Lisa Jackson, Gulf Coast's grants and planning manager.

Even before the proposed renovation, the state had nominated the Hacienda Hotel for the National Register of Historic Places. The federal government is expected to decide on the nomination later this summer.

What makes the property unique, Jackson said, is its age, its distinctive architecture and its respected architect, Thomas Reed Martin.

Martin is even better known for his work in Sarasota. Starting in 1911, he designed more than 500 homes there ranging in price from a few thousand dollars to as much as $100,000. He did the original sketches for John Ringling's mansion.

West Pasco historian Frances Mallett remembers when the Hacienda was the place to be.

"It was the center of everything, Chasco Fiesta, the Fireman's Ball," said the 76-year-old board member of the Historical Society. "When anybody had a big celebration, it was there."

Mallett's husband once gave her a surprise birthday celebration at the Hacienda.

The hotel went bankrupt during the Depression and has had several owners during the past decades. Some have tried to renovate the building, while others have made quick repairs.

Gulf Coast Community Care plans to keep as many of the original doors and windows, and as much of the woodwork as possible.

"What we do have to replace we will keep as close to the original style as possible," Jackson said.

A new tile floor is planned for the lobby.

Gulf Coast has commissioned Fleischman Garcia Architects but has not chosen a general contractor.

The agency has several facilities throughout the Tampa Bay area dedicated to teaching life skills. It operates on a $14-million annual budget, largely funded by the state.

"The mission of the agency is to keep people independent and in the least-restrictive environment as possible," Jackson said. "That applies to people with mental illness, disabilities and terminal illness."

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