NEW PORT RICHEY — It is not inconceivable that at one time a fire truck rolled from 5738 Main St. to the Hacienda Hotel to assist with a fire.
The fire truck’s origin could have been what is now Ordinance One, a popular night spot housed where the local fire station was once housed many years ago.
It was also where a major interest in the Hacienda Hotel renovation had to be moved because the original location for the “Talk About Town” was too small to host all those citizens interested in the historic city icon.
Jim Gunderson, the hotelier chosen by the city in 2018 to lease and renovate the long-vacant property, said there was evidence that there may have been a fire at the Hacienda.
However, that’s not what is causing the process to be so slow.
“I’m not a contractor. I’m not a developer. I’m not an architect,” Gunderson explained. “I’m a hotelier and I simply have a love of old, historic hotels.”
Gunderson owns and, in collaboration with wife Alexandra, restored the Lakeside Inn, in Mount Dora, considered the oldest continuously operated hotel in Florida. The Lakeside Inn, which Gunderson bought in 2010, opened its doors in 1883.
“So, I’m pretty familiar with what it takes to preserve the past and rehabilitate older properties,” he said.
He explained most of the old hotels were “fabulous structures and well done.”
“People were brilliant then using the materials they had,” Gunderson said. “The challenge is that over time, as things needed to be repaired or modified, the people who came along and did that weren’t quite so skilled at what they needed to do. As a result, you end up with all kinds of problems.”
Gunderson gave some history on the Hacienda, which was built in 1927 “because there was a need for another hotel in the community.”
“It was built during an era during which there were a lot of hotels built in the state of Florida,” he said.
The hotel once had “approximately 45 rooms,” Gunderson said, but he plans to move it back to what his teams believes was an actual footprint of 40 rooms along with a meeting room. The work will also put the Hacienda in compliance with federal Americans With Disabilities Act access requirement compliance, he said.
To a certain extent, re-creating the Hacienda is a bit of a guessing game. “There are no original plans to go by,” Gunderson explained.
“It was a booming hotel, then World War II hit and everything changed,” he said. “The movie folks started to go away.”
He went though a long list of historic hotels that are either in a major state of disrepair or “unfortunately no longer there.”
“The challenges of restoring an old hotel are just immense,” Gunderson said adding the Hacienda renovation is “board by board by board and situation by situation.”
He said the hope is to have the project completed by the third quarter of next year with the goal of blending the property in with the adjacent park.
Gunderson emphasized the hotel and its amenities “will definitely be available to the public for private or public gatherings.”
“We will also make use of Peace Hall, so people with larger functions have a nice hotel to compliment that,” he said.
He said the goal is to be open by 2020, “but it certainly won’t be in the first half.”
“We are kind of at the end of the structural stuff,” Gunderson said. “We have already started with plumbing and will be moving forward during the next couple of weeks on the electrical things. The engineering work is being done on the fire sprinkler and alarm systems. The elevator is already picked. I anticipate you are going to start seeing things moving along. I’m pretty optimistic.”