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A lease agreement for the reopening of historic Hacienda hotel became official July 17. Attending the signing ceremony were, from left, Mario Iezzoni, economic development director for the city of New Port Richey; developer Jim Gunderson and Mayor Rob Marlowe.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Mayor Rob Marlowe and Hacienda Hotel Florida Corporation President Jim Gunderson officially signed the lease agreement for the historic Hacienda Hotel.

With the deal in place, a tentative opening date for the Hacienda is slated for late fall of 2019.

The agreement specifies a lease with the option to purchase the Hacienda for $800,000.

City Council, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency board of directors, previously approved the lease agreement, which also includes the purchase option for Gunderson.

“I am pleased that we have taken this next giant step toward the Hacienda reopening as the jewel of downtown New Port Richey,” Marlowe said in a news release.

Built in the Mediterranean-stucco style, the Hacienda opened its doors in 1927. The city bought it in 2003 in anticipation of a downtown development boom that failed to materialize and has been trying to recoup its investment in the building ever since.

Other terms in the lease agreement with Gunderson include that all architectural and engineering work must be submitted and approved by the Florida Division of Historical Resources.

Gunderson, who is the owner of the Lakeside Inn, in Mount Dora, said: “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved with bringing this wonderful and historic hotel back to life. I can't wait to get started.”

The Hacienda Hotel rehabilitation project began in 2014, with funds through matching grants from the state and the city CRA.

“The Hacienda and the Lakeside Inn are two of Florida’s most historic hotels. The pairing of these two properties is an excellent idea. No doubt New Port Richey businesses will benefit from the tourists that will visit the historic Hacienda; an icon of the silent movie era,” said Economic Development Director Mario Iezzoni, who is overseeing the project.

Architects have estimated the cost to complete the Hacienda renovation could approach $4 million, according to CRA records.

Staff selected Gunderson, who spent years as a hospitality industry manager, as the most qualified to take on the hotel project. He and wife Alexandra moved to Mount Dora, in Lake County, from Naples when they bought Lakeside Inn in 2010. They have put the inn, which was built in 1883 and had languished in recent years, through extensive renovations.

Lakeside Inn and its 90 rooms and suites overlooking Lake Dora are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is Florida's longest, continuously operating hotel.

New Port Richey leaders figure Lakeside-Hacienda renovation business model will likely generate a considerable cost saving given that Lakeside Inn will likely absorb much of the general and administration and overhead costs.

As part of the deal, Gunderson has agreed to give the city a “special warranty deed” that prohibits the “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,” Iezzoni emphasized.

Lakeside Inn employs two full-time employees with considerable historic property restoration experience, Iezzoni noted in June. Lakeside will relocate one of its superintendents to New Port Richey to work full-time on the Hacienda. Gunderson has said he will make the roughly 200-mile Mount Dora-New Port Richey round trip several times each week. He has already met with a local electrical contractor, architects, the current general contractor, and the firm that replaced and warranties the Hacienda roof. Additionally, the Lakeside owner met with Friends of the Hacienda to convey his vision for the hotel.