1. Florida Politics

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey's Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey's city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action.

New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, unanimously approved a lease agreement with James Gunderson to restore the landmark hotel on Main Street downtown to its historic glory as a boutique hotel, staying true to the 1927 structure's historic roots.

Gunderson has previously found success restoring the 90-room Lakeside Inn, a hotel in Mount Dora that first opened in 1883. He plans to bring his staff of carpenters and other artisans to complete a similar renovation for the Hacienda.

"This has been a long time coming and I am very glad to see where we are tonight," Mayor Rob Marlowe said.

The city has worked out a lease with the option to purchase agreement with Gunderson to allow him to renovate the structure, which has already had $2.1-million in state grants and city Community Redevelopment Agency dollars pumped into it for roof repairs and to replace windows, doors and patios.

Those upgrades took place as the city struggled to put years of frustration behind it on what to do with the property. New Port Richey has owned the hotel since 2004, when it purchased the Hacienda for more than $2 million during the real estate boom. The subsequent economic crash left the building sitting dormant and falling into disrepair.

In recent years, two agreements with developers have fallen through. The new agreement with Gunderson will provide a year lease through June 2019 for a total of $10, following by a month-to-month lease thereafter if needed.

Once renovations are complete, Gunderson has the option to purchase the hotel for $800,000 through annual installment payments over eight years. Gunderson is also required to make a $75,000 security deposit in year one.

As part of the agreement, the city will also have assurances that hotel renovations will be made consistent with the building's history. Through a special warranty deed, the agreement prohibits "change of use of the property from a mid-scale plus hotel in conformity with any and all rules of the Florida Department of State Division of Historic Resources."