New Port Richey got its own post office in 1915 and was incorporated in 1924. A hundred years ago, the founders of New Port Richey were figuring out what they wanted in a place to live. We have that same opportunity today.
How do we prepare for our city’s second hundred years? I believe our vision of what New Port Richey can and should be is the single most important element. If we can agree on what we want our city to look like five, ten, or even twenty five years from now, the steps we need to take come into clearer focus.
Where things haven’t been up to our expectations, we need to make changes. Where things are working, we need to build on our successes.
For years, the city struggled trying to attract new businesses to fill empty storefronts and office space. The city council stepped out of the “we’ve always done it this way” rut and hired an Economic Development Director. That was two and a half years ago and you can see the results all over town.
For years the Hacienda and the old post office sat empty. Bill Phillips and I wrangled a tour of the Hacienda and asked ourselves why couldn’t the community clean up the old lady and make her presentable. Community members turned out in the hundreds to clean up both the Hacienda and the old post office and now we have a development agreement for the Hacienda, a grant to fund a million dollars worth of work to get the Hacienda ready for redevelopment, and the old post office is now all but full.
We looked at the way that Sims Park had aged and grown into a hangout for drug dealers, vagrants, prostitutes, and rodents (in the “super” playground). We built a modern new playground, added lights and cameras, and made the park so attractive that it is now filled on a daily basis. We’re now looking at additional changes to make the park even better.
The city is in the process of rebooting its Main Street Program. I wrote in detail about the issues facing the program back in September of 2014. Last fall, the council approved a budget that includes a Main Street Coordinator as a paid member of the city staff. The Main Street Coordinator reports to the City Manager and works with the Greater New Port Richey Main Street, Inc. non-profit group to implement the Main Street Program in New Port Richey. We have a new coordinator coming on board in the middle of April.
I’m very pleased with where we’ve come over the last couple of years.
There is still more to do. Here are some examples:
City council will be looking at a proposed “urban agriculture” ordinance on April 5th. This proposal comes from our Environmental Committee. The idea is to take empty lots and use them to grow vegetables that could be sold at the Tasty Tuesday events or other farmer’s markets.
Individual homeowners could also create gardens large enough to feed both themselves and others. There are concerns about how this might work out in practice, but given a choice between a slum with cars parked all over the front yard and an empty lot with a well maintained garden, I know which I would choose to live next to.
Also on the April 5th agenda is a first reading of a proposed “golf cart” ordinance. The idea is to set minimum standards for carts being used on city streets and designate which streets are safe for carts and which ones are simply too dangerous. The ordinance is modeled after the one that is already in place in Port Richey. Ideally, we’ll be able to craft a reciprocal agreement with Port Richey to allow carts from either city to drive in both cities. Do we need this ordinance? Yes. I saw a golf cart running up Bank Street Sunday evening when I drove over to my office to put out the trash. The carts are on the roads now. We need to make sure that the carts are safe for our streets and that our streets are safe for the carts.
Streets that are golf cart friendly are also likely bike friendly and, with sidewalks, pedestrian friendly.
The golf cart discussion is just one point in a much larger discussion that we need to have. Watch for details next week.
Finally, the April 5th agenda includes some proposed changes to encourage people to add front porches to their homes. You need look no further than the Longleaf Community in Trinity to see what a neighborhood looks like with front porches.
So what do we want to see our city look like as we move forward. I would submit that we want a city that includes the following:
- Attractive parks that are filled daily with families enjoying themselves.
- Thriving businesses that are benefiting from the foot traffic that Sims Park is now attracting.
- New and innovative businesses that bring with them good paying jobs.
- A vibrant cultural scene, including music, live theater and special events.
- An emphasis on recreation that includes taking advantage of the beautiful river that flows through out city and the miles of streets that are perfect for cycling.
- An emphasis on protecting our environment, including things like citywide cleanups, river cleanups, and encouraging the creation of more community gardens like the one at the corner of Grand and Louisiana.
- Neighbors that get together to make their neighborhood extra special.
- An emphasis on making our city family friendly: The sort of place you want to raise your kids.
We have some challenges going forward, but we have a lot of opportunities as well.
I’m looking forward to tackling those challenges and grabbing those opportunities as we prepare New Port Richey for its second hundred years.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor