NEW PORT RICHEY — City officials are hoping a new development agreement will revive the long-troubled Main Street Landing project in downtown New Port Richey.
The city is negotiating with Gainesville developer Ken McGurn in hopes he will complete a project that Mayor Rob Marlowe once called an eyesore. During a meeting last week of the Community Redevelopment Agency, composed of City Council members, Marlowe called on the city staff to move forward with reaching an agreement with McGurn to start anew.
The project, which fronts Main Street, first emerged in 2004 with an estimated construction cost of $17 million for three buildings with 46 residential units and 19,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. But the project stalled amid the real estate collapse in 2008, leaving just one partially completed building.
In trying to negotiate a new agreement, for which the city plans to provide financial assistance, the two sides have agreed that the number of residential units will be increased to 90 upscale rentals, with an option to construct retail when the market allows, New Port Richey economic development director Mario Iezzoni told the agency.
"There's a lot of fear that we kind of have to get over," Iezzoni said of the mood that has surrounded the development over the years.
The city is proposing entering into a deal where tax increment financing by the CRA will provide financial assistance over 15 years, with an option for another five years if the city renews its CRA. The city has also proposed waiving permit and impact fees, as well as paying to reconstruct a seawall for the project at a cost of $118,000.
City Council member Jeff Starkey said the timing is right to try again on the project, but called on McGurn to ensure he will build high-end rentals.
"This is a limited market, but we will shoot for the best we can," McGurn said.
Former City Council member Marilyn deChant decried the idea of more rentals in the city, where rental properties are already more than 50 percent of the housing stock. She said razing what exists of the Main Street Landing project should be considered.
"Do we really want to continue with this losing proposition?" deChant asked.
Several business owners and leaders spoke in favor of moving forward with negotiations because of the project's promise to improve the downtown area.
"Now is the time," West Pasco Chamber of Commerce president Chip Wichmanowski said.