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Hacienda pledge drive attracts few donations

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Published:   |   Updated: March 28, 2013 at 04:46 PM
NEW PORT RICHEY -

With donations trickling in at a very slow pace, local leaders are stepping up publicity about the online pledge drive to help repair the vacant Hacienda hotel in downtown New Port Richey.

As of Wednesday morning, the city's crowd-funding campaign had raised $2,830 from pledges by the public through the Citizinvestor website after 22 days.

That's a bit more than 7 percent of the goal of $37,800, with 68 days left before the deadline, to fix up the historic landmark at Main and Bank streets.

“We need to raise a lot more,” Summer Martin, marketing and events coordinator for Pasco Economic Development Council, said Tuesday. The city last year hired Pasco EDC to help with redevelopment.

A direct link for the Hacienda campaign now appears on the home page of the Citizinvestor website at citizinvestor.com.

Pasco EDC has added a link to the fundraising campaign in all of the emails it sends.

A Hacienda survey flier could stimulate more interest, too, when the flier is mailed along with utility bills. People also can fill out the Pasco EDC survey online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HaciendaHotel.

Martin believes many people might be unfamiliar with the new concept of crowd-funding. They can pledge as little as $1 online. A charge will never appear on the credit cards of donors unless the goal of $37,800 is met within 90 days.

“Crowd funding for municipal projects is still relatively new, so there is likely still a learning curve for the public,” New Port Richey Finance Director Doug Haag said Wednesday.

“We do have a system in place to accept donations by check if anyone is concerned about giving out their credit card,” Haag added in an email reply to inquiries.

Haag suggested that people with questions can first contact Marilyn Mercado, executive assistant to the city manager, at (727) 853-1021 or mercadom@cityofnewportrichey.org

The finance department will handle the checks and then alert Citizinvestor. “We will deposit the check until the end of the pledge period and then proceed accordingly,” Haag explained.

Citizinvestor also answers frequently asked questions on the website.

Many residents shared lots of ideas on uses for the Hacienda during a March 12 city workshop. Most suggested reopening the ballroom first to rent the space for large parties, proms or wedding receptions.

However, the city needs money for repairs first.

The Hacienda project description from Citizinvestor said the money could be used for structural repairs, such as the walls of the main lobby, water leak repairs, replacement of window and door frames, ADA compliance, repairs of all exit doors, termite inspection and treatment, inspection of the electrical system, repairs of the fire alarm system, survey of asbestos for removal, survey of lead-based paint and more.

Two community cleanup days spruced up the Hacienda with a fresh coat of paint and some basic repairs.

Completed in 1927, the Spanish-style luxury hotel attracted silent screen stars such as Thomas Meighan and Gloria Swanson, according to the Citizinvestor description. The intention was to create the “Hollywood of the East” in New Port Richey.

On Oct. 24, 1996, the Hacienda Hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The city bought the hotel at the height of the real estate boom and has struggled to find a willing buyer to restore it. So city officials decided on community involvement instead. The first cleanup day Jan. 12 attracted some 400 people.

“The city is reaching out to its local and regional communities and to anyone who has a love of history and Hollywood across the nation, to donate to this community project,” the project description states.

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