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Official expands plan for riverfront

A riverfront recreation complex proposed by county Commissioner Peter Altman at the city's gateway continues to grow.

Altman said he now has the contracts to purchase restaurants Only the Best and Juan's Black Bean Deli.

He intends to add them to the residential and recreation complex his company, Main Street Landings Inc., is designing along New Port Richey's riverfront.

"We have put together a significant amount of real estate to make this work," he said Monday.

Restaurant owner Tish Green said she contacted Altman a few weeks ago about purchasing Only the Best.

"He's going to be buying the restaurant from me and expanding it," she said, noting that the tea room would grow and brunches and dinners might be added. "I'm going to be a consultant."

Green said more outdoor seating, an expanded deck and docks are in the works for Only the Best, improvements she has wanted to do since buying the restaurant six years ago.

Now facing health issues, Green said, "It's tough for me to run it all by myself."

Altman initially approached the city in April about redeveloping the riverfront corridor.

Conceptual plans included upscale vacation rentals, a waterfront restaurant, retail shops and a canoe and kayak outfitter.

Altman is negotiating with city staff to buy an acre of city land appraised at $115,000. The parcel would be combined with land from the River Oaks apartments, whose sale to Altman for about $1-million hinges on acquiring the city's lot.

However, viable restaurants are emerging as a linchpin to luring financial backers.

On their own, the lodging and retail components were not "enough to get the investors excited," said Altman, who is leading Main Street Landings Inc. as a general investor along with Palm Harbor architect and attorney Jim Lentz, who has done commercial work in Pinellas.

The company is seeking five "preferred stock" shareholders to fund the bulk of the project, which city officials estimate to be a $7-million investment in New Port Richey.

Sealing a deal with preferred stockholders could come within a week of city approval for Main Street Landings' expanded plans, Altman estimated.

Altman and a team of consultants who include attorney David Cardwell with the Florida Redevelopment Association and design consultant Prime Interests Inc. of Dunedin will present detailed plans for the proposed complex tonight at 7 before the Community Redevelopment Agency.

To make the project a reality, the company is seeking a commitment from New Port Richey leaders pledging city services for items such as streetscaping, parking assistance and more.