We’re going to need skates to keep up with the pace for the next week, although with the new brick walkway between Orange Lake and the Historical Society, running shoes might be a better choice.
The West Pasco Chamber of Commerce Business Development Week starts today. This is a huge week long event with something for everyone interested in having a successful business in New Port Richey and West Pasco. One of my favorite parts, the West Pasco Business Challenge will be hosted at the Richey Theatre on Thursday afternoon. More info can be found on the chamber website at: http://www.westpasco.com
The construction fencing around Sims Park will be coming down this week. The construction has been running a bit late, but the park is now all but finished and the Grand Re-Opening is scheduled for this coming Saturday at 12:30pm. I expect to see quite a crowd there.
The bike racks went in this week. Workers have been busy setting the sprinkler system, installing landscaping, and working on the last few sidewalks.
There was quite a bit of discussion late this past summer when a few trees were removed to make room for the improvements. I was one of the folks who was unhappy to see some very pretty trees taken down. I am quite pleased to see that a whole batch of young hickories have been planted in front of the museum and the new oaks between the museum and Peace Hall will create quite the canopy in just a few years.
The Hacienda Deconstruction has now started in earnest. As the modern additions have come off the north end, workers are uncovering some seriously cool features that date back to the 1920’s. Back in December, we were told that restoring the balconies on the north side of the hotel might not be possible because of the expense of installing the necessary structural supports. We have now discovered that the original structural pieces were simply covered up when the new additions were put in. Ditto some very cool crown moldings and some decorative pieces around the original main entrance on Bank Street. I had the opportunity to don a hard hat and take a look inside earlier this week.
The new Bank & Main Cafe had a soft opening this past Thursday. They are featuring gourmet coffee and pastries to go along with your coffee. They make your coffee right in front of you and tell you about the whole process. The Cafe is just north of Ottaway’s Ice Cream shop on Bank Street. Once the weather gets a bit nicer, you will be able to enjoy your coffee while sitting at a table on the sidewalk. Check it out and be sure to tell them that the Mayor sent you.
What else do we need downtown? A small grocery store would be right up near the top of my list. The Antique Mall used to be an IGA grocery store. It closed when mega-grocery stores came into vogue. Things are coming full circle and even Publix is experimenting with smaller stores.
Imagine being able to live downtown in a loft on Grand Blvd or perhaps in one of the apartments that Frank Starkey and his group want to build on the old Baptist Church property. If you find yourself out of milk or something else? You could walk the block or two and get what you need without ever firing up the car.
If the golf cart ordinance we will be looking at in March passes, you could scoot over from other parts of the city and still not have to fire up your car.
This isn’t as crazy as it might seem. Living downtown or nearby dramatically reduces the amount of time you have to spend commuting. I was a little surprised yesterday to realize that I was filling up my gas tank for the first time since the week before Christmas. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. My daily commute is right at one mile each way.
There are some other types of businesses that I believe could do quite well downtown. It is clear that restaurants and entertainment venues are popular enough to get people downtown. Seeing additional restaurants open up would solidify our position as the “go to place” when you are hungry and want to eat out.
There are a very limited number of properties in the historic downtown. We are at the point of needing to target our business recruitment toward specific types of businesses we’d like to see open up and that can generate enough income to stay in business. With fewer empty storefronts than even a couple of years ago, it is important that the right types of businesses fill up the the remaining empty spaces.
I believe the key to having a vibrant downtown is to concentrate on reasons for people to get out of their cars and walk down our sidewalks.
I hope to see you at the Business Development Week activities this week and in Sims Park for our Grand Re-Opening this Saturday.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor