GEEKNOTE: I'll get back to talking about cool tech issues shortly, but this week I want to talk about the coolest thing to happen in downtown New Port Richey in years.
The Hacienda Hotel was originally built in the 1920's and opened for business in 1927. The city purchased the Hacienda in 2003 and it has been vacant since 2006.
Difficulties locating an appropriate location for a room annex, as well as the bank meltdown during the Great Recession, delayed any redevelopment work for years. Fearing that the Hacienda might suffer the same fate (bulldozers) as the much newer First Baptist Church on the other side of Orange Lake, city staff and the city council members started thinking outside of the proverbial box for alternative ways to make it possible for the Hacienda to at least cover it's own ongoing maintenance.
We don't have millions of dollars sitting around to do a full blown renovation and room wing annex. Let's concentrate on what is possible.
There have been a number of suggestions for possible uses for the Hacienda, and it is big enough to house a number of them. I am but one member of council, so don't expect to see my vision for the place adopted in its entirety.
I would like to see the Hacienda become the New Port Richey Welcome Center, with both the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce and the Greater New Port Richey Main Street organization as tenants. The Chamber has been bursting at the seams in their current location for at least a decade and Main Street has been paying for some of the worst cubby hole office space in all of New Port Richey. Locating them in adjoining space in the Hacienda would allow both of them to grow as we continue to exit the Great Recession. The Chamber already serves as an unofficial welcome center of sorts, but doesn't have near enough space to do it right.
The Progress Energy Art Gallery could also stretch a bit if they could relocate out of their tiny location on Grand. These three organizations could spread out and we STILL wouldn't be using more than a fraction of the space in the Hacienda.
It has been suggested that the food service area be configured into a "you catch it, we cook it" type of seafood restaurant. This is easily done, although I hope they put steaks on the menu too. I do NOT intend to catch my steaks.
With some minor ordinance changes and some relatively inexpensive dock work in the park, it would be possible to house a canoe/ kayak rental center, a bicycle rental center, and a tour boat operator as well. The Miss Daisy already does historic tours down the river starting at Sims Park during special events. Why not make it possible for them to run 12 months of the year out of this near perfect location?
Without the need for a large room annex, the old Post Office building is potentially available for alternate uses. Lots of things have been kicked around, but I like the idea of a business incubator.
Having the Hacienda occupied would deter vandalism and turn the Hacienda into a hub of activity in the downtown.
How do we get from where we are to something along the lines of what I've described above?The first step is to clean the place up and make it presentable to potential tenants. You may have noticed that city crews have been cleaning up the outside in preparation for this Saturday's Hacienda Cleanup. We've got a lot of interest from folks wanting to help out Saturday, but we can certainly use more hands. We are looking to gather about 8:30 Saturday morning and wrap up in time for a nice lunch. We've already got over $1,000 in pledges to pay for the lunch. If you can help, please email out acting city manager at email@example.com or call Marilyn Mercado at 853-1021.
I suspect this will be the first of several work days where the community can come together to help save this historic structure.
Better external lighting has been ordered and should be in place shortly. This should also discourage vandalism.
I'm planning on being at the Hacienda Saturday morning, and I hope that you will join me there as well.
Feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here if you have any questions.
Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek, Gulfcoast Networking, Inc.
(Rob also serves as deputy mayor of the City of New Port Richey. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the city.)