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Summits will look to boost NPR development

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Published:   |   Updated: July 2, 2013 at 03:15 PM

NEW PORT RICHEY - It's time to roll up the sleeves and get down to business, New Port Richey city leaders believe. They will hold two summits in July on boosting the city's economic development.

First up will be an Economic Development Summit at 8:30 a.m. Friday, July 12, at Peace Hall, along Circle Boulevard next to the West Pasco Historical Society Museum and Library. Pasco Economic Development Council is organizing the event.

Then, redevelopment of the former Community Hospital site will provide the sole focus for a Thursday, July 25, joint meeting among city officials, county leaders and state lawmakers.

Pasco Commissioner Henry Wilson last week sent out invitations to leaders for the event scheduled to start at 6 p.m. The meeting location, depending on possible size of the crowd, hasn't been firmed up yet.

Transforming the city is a common theme for both events. The Great Recession and Florida real estate market collapse reduced property tax revenues for the city. The turnaround year could come in 2014 as several large construction projects now in progress could boost the city tax base.

PEDC has lined up its main speaker for July 12, Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton.

Isham will share the steps the Manatee County city took to develop and promote its Riverwalk, according to John Hagen, president and CEO of PEDC. She specializes in working with others on transformations. Her experience includes 18 years as vice president of Ringling College of Art and Design.

Leaders still hope the historic former Hacienda Hotel can provide an economic spark in the next few years, in the same vein as the refurbished Vinoy Hotel, which revitalized the heart of St. Petersburg.

In the meantime, many of the buildings lie idle on the former Community Hospital campus along Marine Parkway at Grand Boulevard. The hospital moved to Medical Center of Trinity by early 2012, with a satellite operation in a small portion of the Community site.

In addition, the lack of an anchor from Community Hospital has depressed some of the rental rates at nearby office complexes, Pasco Property Appraiser Mike Wells recently told council members.

Wilson said he had recently discussed the hospital property with Mayor Bob Consalvo, interim City Manager Susan Dillinger and Development Director Lisa Fierce. The city officials suggested setting the summit to dovetail with a special council meeting the night of July 25.

"Between all of us working together we believe we can come up with a win-win," Wilson wrote in his email invitation.

PEDC also continues to gather ideas for the vacated Community Hospital property as part of the organization's consulting contract with the city, Hagen observed.

The nonprofit business group and county officials have been exchanging ideas from time to time in the past few months, Hagen noted. The county is promoting its Harbors redevelopment plan for all of West Pasco, including revitalization of the city.

Shortly after winning election in April, council members Chopper Davis and Jeff Starkey offered insights on directions where they want the city to head.

Davis had suggested banners promoting firms could hang near entry signs at city limits. Davis had emphasized business and tourism during his campaign. The city also needs better designations along the U.S. 19 corridor, he thinks.

A nuisance ordinance is "near and dear to my heart," Starkey said. Hangouts for prostitutes, drug addicts and other undesirable people could undercut the city's redevelopment efforts, he believes.

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