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Newest plan would reshape downtown

Nearly two years ago, a prominent St. Petersburg real estate developer bought four downtown properties but never indicated on paper what he might do with them. Until now.

Grady Pridgen Inc.'s conceptual plans call for 60 residential units and 60 hotel rooms on the 2.1-acre site near Main and Lincoln streets, according to a document faxed to the city by Steven Kurcan, who works for Pridgen.

Kurcan sent the document as part of Pridgen's request to vacate a stretch of Lincoln Street from Main Street to Lafayette Street. That part of Lincoln cuts between properties owned by Pridgen's NPR of Tampa Bay LLC.

Closing the street would allow Pridgen to unite the properties. City Manager Scott Miller told Kurcan in a Nov. 20 letter that officials needed an idea of the developer's plans before they could make a decision about vacating the street.

A hotel and residential project as large as the one described by Kurcan would be a significant change to the downtown landscape, which consists mainly of one- and two-story buildings. The site is home to a one-story office building, a commercial building and the shuttered Spoonbills restaurant.

Pridgen spokeswoman Rebecca Bray on Tuesday declined to describe the project more fully, emphasizing that the concept for 60 units and 60 hotel rooms was one of many.

"The (street closing) process requires a concept," Bray said. "It could definitely change."

In April 2004, Pridgen, the force behind some of Pinellas County's most prominent business parks, announced he wanted to build a $50-million, mixed-use project on the New Port Richey property. At the time, Pridgen told the Pasco Times, he was considering plans for 160 condos, 30,000 to 40,000 square feet of retail and office space, plus a parking garage. But he never filed any paperwork with the city.

The city's Development Review Committee will take up the developer's street request Thursday. The committee will make a recommendation, but the ultimate decision lies with the City Council.

City officials have been looking for a project to help jump-start redevelopment efforts. Officials originally pinned their hopes on Main Street Landing, a complex of condos and shops on the other side of the Pithlachascotee River, but the project stalled this summer amid financial problems. A group of developers is looking at rebuilding and reopening the historic Hacienda Hotel. Another developer has been talking with the city about redeveloping the Orange Lake area.

Jodie Tillman covers the city of New Port Richey. She can be reached at (727) 869-6247 or jtillman@sptimes.com.

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