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New Port Richey hopes zoning change will spur downtown development

NEW PORT RICHEY — The city has taken another step toward its goal to redevelop downtown into a vibrant mixed-use residential, commercial and recreational hub.

During a meeting Tuesday night, the New Port Richey City Council approved changes to the land-use and zoning designations for 18 acres in the heart of downtown, allowing increased residential density and higher buildings.

The property is south of Central Avenue, north of Missouri Avenue, east of River Road and west of Adams Street, part of which bisects the Pithlachascotee River. It also is adjacent to popular Orange Lake, which in recent months has been made contiguous with Sims Park amid an overhaul of the park that is slated to open later this month. The park will include a new playground and splash pad.

The new land-use designation, known as "downtown core," will allow for 30 residential units per acre, up from the 15 previously allowed. Buildings also can be built as high as 50 feet to accommodate the increased residential density. The previous limit was 35 feet. Ground-floor residential uses that were previously not allowed can now be granted.

Hopes are that increasing residential possibilities will provide more incentive for developers to build downtown, making it a walkable retail, office, residential and recreational hub that will reduce the need for residents to obtain goods, services and entertainment outside the downtown and continue to fill New Port Richey's storefronts.

"Allowing a greater number of residential units in the physical and economic center of downtown would make the best use of the premium location and strengthen downtown and the city as a whole," New Port Richey development director Lisa Fierce wrote in a memorandum to the council.