NEW PORT RICHEY — Over the nearly two decades it took to complete Main Street Landing, the city’s mixed-use development that now welcomes visitors to the downtown, a number of concessions and extensions were granted to keep the project from failing completely.
The last of those came in early 2019 when the City Council, operating as the Community Redevelopment Agency, amended its agreement with developers Ken and Linda McGurn. That was when inclement weather and labor-shortage issues required the owners of Gainesville-based McGurn Management to ask for a four-month deadline extension for achieving certificates of occupancy on 90% of the complex’s residential units. That deadline was tied to receiving a $1.475 million incentive from the CRA, to be disbursed in two annual payments of $737,500.
Main Street Landing, a project that first came to life in 2004, finally received its certificate of occupancy on Jan. 17 of this year and the city made the first of two $737,500 incentive payments Feb. 20.
With one more of those payments remaining, it was the city’s turn to request an extension.
“The reason I asked for their consideration is related to the fact that we needed some more flexibility in the CRA to support some of the additional programs,” City Manager Debbie Manns said during the Sept. 15 CRA meeting. “They were agreeable to do so.”
The city’s’ request, which was approved by the CRA board 4-0, is to have the remaining payment split into two annual payments of $368,750. The first is due Sept. 30, 2021, and the next on the same date in 2022.
The incentive also accrues 2% interest on the outstanding amount, Manns said.
Former city councilman Bill Phillips addressed the board during public comment, questioning the decision to further extend an incentive payment that grows with interest.
“This is a project that just keeps on giving,” he said, adding that the outstanding debt remaining on the CRA books may cause other projects to be delayed.
Manns did respond that the city’s agreement with McGurn Management states it can prepay any amount of the outstanding debt without penalty, therefore limiting the amount of accrued interest.
The addendum passed 4-0 because Councilman Peter Altman abstained because of an “employment relationship,” he said. Altman, an accountant, was originally a partner with the McGurns in the Main Street Landing project but had to drop out when its development ground to a halt in the middle of the previous decade.
Board members continued their Main Street Landing discussions following the vote, shifting their focus to commercial businesses on the complex’s ground floor.
Altman suggested working with the businesses that currently exist and that are coming soon to encourage more outdoor activity. “Bottom line, it looks good when there’s some life and activity out there,” he said.
Councilman Jeff Starkey, who now resides at Main Street Landing, spoke glowingly of the property and agreed that increasing the visibility of on-site activity, especially on the south, Cotee River-facing side, would be a positive.
One suggested improvement would be to designate pedestrian areas around Main Street Landing as “wet zones,” that permit patrons to drink alcohol and mingle outside of the businesses.
Mayor Robert Marlowe said that could be accomplished immediately because of the current COVID-19 emergency ordinance still in place.
“Ms. Manns can designate wet zone areas on sidewalks and has in fact done that for Cotee River Brewing,” Marlowe said, referencing downtown’s Cotee River Brewing Co. at 5760 Main St. “As we exit the pandemic situation, we need to formalize any of those areas that are going to remain afterward, including sidewalk dining.”