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Sunday, Sep 21, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Help may be on the way for the Hacienda

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NEW PORT RICHEY — Potentially high repair costs of up to $2 million did not seem to faze two potential developers for the renovation project to reopen the landmark Hacienda, city officials learned last week.

Because of some crumbling spots inside the former hotel, however, New Port Richey City Council members might go ahead with some basic repairs now on the structure at Main and Bank streets.

“Every time you peel back this onion, you’re going to cry a little bit more,” Councilman Bill Phillips remarked about the condition of the historic Hacienda. He said a “lack of leadership” had allowed the vacant structure to deteriorate over nine years since the city bought the property in 2005.

Mario Iezzoni, the city’s economic development manager, said Tuesday he contacted the two redevelopment bidders still in the running, Legacy Lodging LLC and Florida Motel Inc. Iezzoni provided them with copies of the 82-page preliminary structural analysis report from McKim & Creed engineers.

“They were willing to go forward,” Iezzoni said about the two companies. Both firms intend to submit basic data requested by Iezzoni to gauge the financial resources of the firms to complete the project.

“They didn’t seem intimidated,” Iezzoni said about the bidders. “It didn’t scare off the proposers.”

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, how bad is it?” Councilman Jeff Starkey asked engineers involved with the structural analysis.

The engineers rated the Hacienda condition as 7. The floor could possibly fail in one room, for instance. Iezzoni voiced concerns about roof trusses and a beam over the main lobby. Some signs of termite damage have been detected.

“We know it’s in pretty bad shape,” Starkey said. Nonetheless, he was a bit puzzled why the initial repair estimate has such a wide range from $1 million to $2 million.

Engineers responded that they need to peer inside walls and other places with limited access to check for hidden defects. Also, previous tenants might have made alterations to the structure. The next phase of the analysis would be more extensive, council members were told.

Phillips said he was “not surprised a bit” by the findings in the preliminary structural analysis. He cited the city’s “absolute inaction” on the Hacienda until the first community cleanup day in January 2013. The city had been embroiled in negotiations with a previous developer when the recession struck.

“That’s what irks me the most, the lack of leadership,” Phillips said.

Since the city paid $2.5 million for the building in 2005 as part of a planned downtown redevelopment program, the city should have taken care of some of the neglect of the Hacienda, Phillips said.

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