NEW PORT RICHEY — The city is putting big money into addressing downtown parking in conjunction with the highly-anticipated late 2020 re-opening of the Hacienda Hotel on New Port Richey’s Main Street.
The Gloria Swanson parking lot, named after the silent movie celebrity from the 1920s and star of the 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard, will be getting an overhaul fitting of its namesake, who along with other silent film stars often frequented the Hacienda in its heyday.
The New Port Richey City Council approved the nearly $1 million facelift during a meeting Tuesday.
City council members expressed excitement that the parking lot overhaul will be the perfect complement to the Hacienda by adding 35 parking spots to the existing 88 spots, bringing the total to 123. The parking lot will also be receiving new pavement, sidewalks, streetscaping, landscaping, lighting and electric car charging stations. Plans also call for wide eye-catching crosswalks leading to the Hacienda, as well as Sims and Orange Lake parks, which abut the parking lot.
Deputy Mayor Jeff Starkey said Tuesday he is still dealing with some “sticker shock” over the cost of the project, which city documents say is not to exceed $992,000. But the price tag has been expected since the council received a consultant’s downtown parking study in September 2018 outlining ways to address the boom New Port Richey is seeing to its downtown nightlife, special events and Sims Park attendance in the wake of $3 million in upgrades completed on the park in recent years.
The Swanson lot project, with a projected $1 million budget, was at the forefront in the study as first to address with the impending opening of the Hacienda. The city purchased the 1927 landmark in 2004 for more than $2 million with an eye toward restoration, but it fell into disrepair and dormancy during the economic crash. Using several state grants and city funding, a major stabilization effort ensued, and after several redevelopment deals fell through, the city reached a deal with hotel renovator Jim Gunderson to restore the Hacienda as a 40-room boutique hotel.
New Port Richey Public Works Director Robert Rivera said Tuesday a timeline for the Swanson lot construction will be worked out with Tarpon Springs-based Augustine Construction.
“This is a project that we really need to get done quickly to benefit everybody involved so I am looking forward to seeing the completion,” City Council member Matt Murphy said.