Bait shop or Chamber of Commerce? New Port Richey council to decide

The Chamber’s lease has lapsed, leading officials to consider other options for downtown building.
New Port Richey City Hall
New Port Richey City Hall
Published Feb. 20, 2020

NEW PORT RICHEY — The Greater Pasco Chamber of Commerce’s lease has lapsed on a city-owned Main Street building that has long held its headquarters.

In the past, that has meant a rubber-stamped lease renewal to keep the Chamber in the building at 5443 Main St. But some city leaders are questioning whether that is still the best use for the property.

The building sits next to New Port Richey’s busy boat ramp, a key regional launch into the Pithlachascotee River. City Council member Peter Altman has questioned whether the property would be better used as a compliment to the ramp and waterfront access.

It could be used for a kayak rental or bait shop, some have said. Altman suggested during a recent City Council meeting putting public bathrooms there, a complement to the boat ramp and useful as redevelopment continues to surge downtown.

“It’s not a mean-spirited thing," Altman said. "I just think the time has come for us to be open to development concepts that might help us in the long-term.”

Altman has at least one ally on the council concerning the Chamber building — Deputy Mayor Jeff Starkey.

“I think it’s time to look at other options for that very, very valuable piece of property right on the river next to our boat ramp,” Starkey said.

The chamber, which has about 1,110 members, wants to stay where it has been since 1972, according to Tim McClain, the Chamber’s president and CEO.

“I just believe there isn’t anything better than what we provide," he said. "It’s what is right for the city.”

McClain acknowledged that the Chamber could do a better job of informing the council about the services it provides. The office fields about 15 walk-ins each day, he said, including people asking about things going on in the city.

“We also take another 15 calls each day about New Port Richey," he said. "And during special events those numbers skyrocket.” The site is in the perfect location at New Port Richey’s gateway for people to learn about the city and promote its businesses, he said.

The Chamber will seek another lease with the city, according to McClain.

“We have had a great relationship with the city, and we believe we are still a tremendous asset to New Port Richey,” he said.

Discussions likely will take place soon regarding a short-term lease, according to City Manager Debbie Manns. A year-long lease, under which the Chamber pays the city $400 a month, has been expired since June 2019, she said.