NEW PORT RICHEY — After eight years, city officials have a possible a user for the former church the city bought in 2006. Leasing the site at 6131 River Road, however, might make more sense than selling the structure at this point, City Manager Debbie Manns said last week. Manns met with Chuck Grey of F.I. Grey & Son Inc. to learn more about the offer to purchase the former home of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, of New Port Richey. Grey told her that Gary Blackwell, a longtime West Pasco real estate professional, has submitted the offer on behalf of the Pasco Arts Council. The nonprofit group’s headquarters and gallery, The Arts Center, at 5744 Moog Road, Holiday, is next to the county’s Centennial Park Branch Library.
The Arts Center building is a two-story former residence built in the late 1930s that Pasco County bought in 1983 and the Arts Council moved into in 1986. Known as the Anderson House, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Regarding the Arts Council’s interest in the former church property, Manns wrote in a memo, “From the staff’s perspective,, their intended use of the property is not the highest and best, and therefore it may be appropriate to consider a lease agreement rather than to sell the property at this time.” “It’s a bit up in the air at the moment, but we have been trying to find a suitable location for the Pasco Fine Arts Council within the boundaries of the city,” Grey wrote in an email. “Nothing definite yet. We are arranging for a showing. We’re doing everything we can to bring activity to the downtown area and this is just one idea.” The city listed the property for $255,000. In May 2006, the city paid $1.05 million shortly before property values plummeted during the recession. The building has sat vacant since then. The Christian Science congregation sold the 2.3-acre site to the city, including a 7,000-square-foot sanctuary. Church officials had intended to lease the facilities back from the city, but that plan fell through. Since then numerous ideas have popped up for possible uses. In July 2006, West Pasco Chamber of Commerce leaders toured the premises as a possible new site for its offices. In the end, however, the city approved a lease extension allowing the chamber to stay in the 2,000-square-foot riverfront building on Main Street the business group leases from the city. Other ideas over the years have included a charter school, overflow parking for boaters and educational programs by Richey Suncoast Theatre.