Sometimes, it is fun to look back on where we’ve come from. I re-read my NPR note from right after I was first elected mayor. I stated then that none of us on city council were willing to accept the status quo and that remains true today, five years later. New Port Richey can be better than it is and all of us working together can make that happen.
What has changed in the last five years is the view people have of New Port Richey, particularly the downtown. The changes have been absolutely breathtaking.
The first big project we tackled was the overhaul of Sims Park. The new and improved Sims Park exceeded everyone’s expectations. The business community took note and the empty storefronts started filling up. I credit the excitement generated by the Sims Park improvements in helping generate the vote of confidence I received in my 2017 reelection campaign.
Main Street Landing is now on track for an opening this summer. The first foundation pour for the Central on Orange Lake was this past Tuesday. Work on the Orange Lake decks is coming to a conclusion.
Regan Weiss keeps sending his drone aloft. He caught a beautiful view of the entire downtown Saturday evening. From the lights on Orange Lake, to the movie in the park, to cars parked downtown by people enjoying an evening out, it is all visible from the air in this amazing video.
ABC Action News has been to New Port Richey a couple of times in the last few weeks. They came to interview Regan Weiss about his idea for a putting green on the bank of Orange Lake. Regan will be making a video presentation at the City Council meeting on May 7th at 7pm.
We were in the news last night with a nice piece about the transformation of the downtown. The downtown is going upscale before our eyes. We intend to get the word out. The city has contracted for a promotional video. The video crew was all over the downtown Friday night and I look forward to seeing the finished product.
Things aren’t just happening downtown either.
The city council approved a 20 year roadmap for improving and maintaining the city’s street network. The repaving of both Congress and Madison are a direct result of that. Gulf Drive will be getting a much needed makeover in the coming months. The street improvements include street paving in residential areas too.
City staff are working on a plan to fix up the network of alleys in New Port Richey. This project will be challenging, especially given that the alleys have been ignored for decades.
Another project that is well along in the planning stage is fixing Grand Blvd from the downtown all the way to Marine Parkway. We want to tie the Marine Parkway multi-use path to the downtown and we need to solve the chronic issue of speeding along the four lane section of Grand. One way to do that is to reduce Grand to two lanes and expand both parking and green space all the way from the downtown to Gulf Drive.
At the last Talk About Town at People Places, Frank Starkey made the case for not only cutting the street down to two lanes, but even eliminating the turn lanes. Keep an eye out for future Talk About Town presentations. Any number of good ideas have originated at these sessions. We’ve been providing public notices of these meetings because it is not unusual for some of us on city council to be in attendance, necessitating that we comply with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine rules. The Talk About Town series events are generally held on Monday evenings from 6:00pm to 7:30 or 8:00pm and they are open to the public.
There are even discussions about how we might be able to tie the Port Richey waterfront to our downtown so that you could bike or ride your golf cart between them. We’ve been working with both Pasco County and the City of Port Richey to get state funding for a boardwalk that would go under US 19 at the Cotee River bridge. At last report there were some funds in the state budget. If that funding survives, we’ll be well on our way to building this linkage between the two cities.
Now that Chasco is behind us for another year, city staff have been busy working on the Main Street bridge. The old concrete coffins/hard as a rock concrete “benches” have been removed and new seating that is actually comfortable will be installed shortly. I’m confident that you will like the change.
The old coffins are available for adoption, if you’d like one for your yard. Be aware that each one weighs over 2100 pounds and it takes a full size front end loader to move one. I understand Public Works tried picking up one with a smaller “Bobcat” style machine and the rear wheels went up into the air instead of the coffin.
One particularly problematic area, the Leisure Lane / Van Doren area north of the Southgate Shopping Plaza, is seeing the start of a revitalization. Habitat for Humanity dedicated their first house there this past Monday.
I look forward to the day when Habitat is able to convert this whole area into a nice residential neighborhood.
We will continue to work on other initiatives that will make New Port Richey better and will continue to address the challenges that we, like all cities our size, face.
We are scheduling workshops with key players, like the Chasco Fiesta Committee, the New Port Richey Main Street Board, and the Richey Suncoast Theatre Board. We need buy-in from all of these groups and the folks that call New Port Richey home in order to take New Port Richey to the next level. Will it all be easy? No. We need to continue to look for innovative solutions rather than just doing what we’ve always done and accepting the status quo.
When I was first elected as mayor, I was optimistic that we could make New Port Richey a great place to live, work, and play. I am even more optimistic today. The pieces are coming together in a way that has people talking about how much things have changed for the better. I see that trend continuing.
There are a growing number of people in the community that are excited about the future that we can build together for New Port Richey. We need your help and support to make that future a reality. The next few years are going to be a great ride!
Rob Marlowe, Mayor