Pasco News

Hacienda attracting developers’ attention

NEW PORT RICHEY — With the historic Hacienda hotel cleaned up this year, developers once again are expressing interest in the landmark, Mayor Bob Consalvo said this week.

Publicity over the recent restoration of the courtyard fountain stimulated awareness of the Spanish-style structure, which opened in 1927 at Main and Bank streets. Public Works Director Sherman Applegate and his crew got the fountain waters flowing again.

Community cleanup campaigns in January and February attracted more than 400 volunteers.

Consalvo has received several nibbles with inquiries from developers. Some asked the mayor if the city would be willing to sell the landmark building it bought in 2004.

The city bought the former hotel — which later was a home for people with long-term mental health problems — during a property-buying spree that has left the New Port Richey Community Redevelopment Agency saddled with debt after the city’s downtown redevelopment plans stalled following the post-2007 recession.

At a March workshop, most residents who spoke said they don’t want the city to sell the Hacienda.

City Council members said Tuesday they were not willing to lock themselves into a deal like the previous arrangement. Community Development Partners had entered into a 2008 predevelopment agreement with the city, then shelved the project.

For about four or five years, the Hacienda sat boarded up. The city ended its pact with CDP last year.

However, a developer investing millions of dollars in any Hacienda project would probably want to buy the property, Consalvo observed. Historical preservation grants could also prove crucial.

The city gave CDP too much latitude in the previous pact, Councilman Bill Phillips said. He believes the city could retain enough control over the fate of the Hacienda even if the structure is sold.

All options are on the table, Councilman Jeff Starkey said. Starkey toured the Hacienda with a potential investor who sees the Hacienda as part of downtown redevelopment that would include Sims Park and surrounding areas.

The City Council has scheduled a public workshop on a Sims Park master plan for 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 5919 Main St. The city has hired an architect to help redesign the area. The Hacienda could be part of the conversation at the meeting.

In the meantime, city leaders look for ways to raise money for an analysis of any structural repairs the Hacienda might need.

A crowd-funding, online pledge drive expired after raising $9,202 toward a goal of $37,800. Since the goal was not achieved, no charges were placed on credit cards of any participants.

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