Historic Pasco hotel may see renaissance
NEW PORT RICHEY - If the walls of the Hacienda could talk, they could tell about the fanfare in February 1927, when the swanky hotel first opened as a "Bit of Old Spain Amid the Palms." Then the Great Depression sent downtown New Port Richey into an economic tailspin, and the Hacienda never recovered. For the past four to five years, the boarded-up Hacienda has sat vacant, a hollow shell of its former self. Another turning point in the fate of the Hacienda could come tonight. In a rare Thursday work session, New Port Richey City Council members once again will discuss ideas for salvaging the structure at Main and Bank streets.The recession is loosening its grip on the local economy, council members say. Further evidence comes from two parties expressing interest in buying the property on River Road that the city bought from the First Church of Christ Scientist of New Port Richey in 2006. The city bought the Hacienda, the church property and the former home of the First Baptist Church of New Port Richey, across from Orange Lake, in connection with a downtown redevelopment program that ground to a halt as a result of the post-2008 recession and the downturn in the Florida real estate market. The debt from those land deals is weighing on the city's finances, so officials are anxious to either sell them or get them producing revenue. The possible sale of the former church property is on the Thursday agenda, interim City Manager Susan Dillinger said. "I think we've got a lot of options" for the Hacienda, Councilman Rob Marlowe said last week. He toured the Hacienda with Councilman Bill Phillips and others. Earlier this year, city officials were concerned they might be forced to tear down the Hacienda if the structure continued to crumble. However, "It's not as bad as I feared," Marlowe said about the structural integrity of the Hacienda. Its many boarded-up exterior windows make the building look worse than it is, Marlowe thinks. Council members expect a report Thursday from Community Development Partners. In 2008, Jacksonville-based CDP entered into a predevelopment agreement with the city but then shelved the project because of the tight credit market. Any redevelopment could hinge upon historical tax credits worth about $3 million toward financing. Council members haven't heard much from CDP executives since an appearance in February by Andrew M. Ham, a company representative. CDP scrapped its plans to expand the Hacienda into a 93-room hotel because of deed restrictions on the adjoining Sims Park property. In March, though, CDP expressed interest in building an annex with hotel rooms across the street from the historic building. The annex would take up much of the space now occupied by the Gloria Swanson parking lot. The parking lot, named for one of the Hollywood stars involved in the failed effort to make New Port Richey a film production center in the 1920s, is across Bank Street from the Hacienda Under the revised CDP plan, the Hacienda building could house most of the amenities and tourist attractions.
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