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Most of the buildings on the former site of Community Hospital of New Port Richey were razed late last year. Now that it is no longer a contender for a planned Department of Veterans Affairs medical clinic, the land on Marine Parkway has received “opportunity zone” status.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Even though the vacant site where Community Hospital of New Port Richey once stood was disqualified many months ago as a possible location for a proposed U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs consolidated clinic in West Pasco, officials are leveraging “opportunity zone” status for the parcel along Marine Parkway.

Demolition and clearing of the old hospital buildings concluded in December, but the site was knocked out as a contender not long after. In all, the VA has studied 16 potential clinic sites.

City officials were chagrined after the former Community Hospital site was rejected as a contender. In January, Mario Iezzoni, the economic development director, speculated that VA officials prefers a one-story design for an outpatient clinic of some 114,000 square feet. A two-story proposal didn’t seem to gain much traction.

Iezzoni and Medical Center of Trinity CEO Leigh Massengill both said last week that they are exploring other options for the former Community Hospital parcel, which is in an area that still has many medical offices.

It’s a bit hard to believe, Massengill said July 24, that it’s been more than six years since Community Hospital moved most of its services into its newly construct home on State Road 54 east of Little Road and became Medical Center of Trinity. She made the comment while examining progress on remodeling of the Medical Center of Trinity Behavioral Care Center. The mental health center is on a small section of the former Community footprint at 5637 Marine Parkway, which is now referred to as the Medical Center of Trinity West Pasco Campus.

“We’ve been meeting with her to discuss opportunities at the site,” Iezzoni said in a July 24 email, referring to Massengill.

The hospital’s parent company, Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America, has “always been a good partner in trying to redevelop the site,” Iezzoni said. The U.S. Department of Treasury and the State of Florida has designated the HCA land assembly on the east side of Grand Boulevard as an Opportunity Zone, he said.

To learn more about the designation, go online to eig.org/opportunityzones.

In short, the zones are a “new community development program established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide,” according to a website blurb.

“This designation creates an incentive for a larger entity, such as a health care provider or manufacturing firm, to locate at the site and realize some significant tax benefits as well as access to additional sources of investment funding,” Iezzoni explained.

“We are working on some promotional materials for the land assembly,” Iezzoni said. “I did pitch it once to a rather strong prospect. However, they wanted to be on U.S. 19 further north.”