I can’t believe we are already going into 2019. The past year has certainly flown by.
The transformation of the downtown has been nothing short of amazing. New businesses have opened up, including our first downtown grocery store in decades. Our local businesses are offering a unique feel to our downtown that makes it a special place to visit.
Some projects, most notably the boardwalks out onto Orange Lake, will be completed shortly. Others, like the multi-year work to improve our streets and efforts to improve the Leisure Lane / Van Doren area, will continue. New projects, like the Central On Orange Lake, should break ground within the coming weeks. New Port Richey today is much improved over what it was a year ago. I’m confident that the city will look even better this time next year.
The city council will hold three workshops in the next couple of months. They cover three issues that we need to sort out moving forward.
The first workshop, at 5pm on January 2nd, will be a discussion regarding the city’s Main Street Program. The city has been a Main Street participant for the last quarter century. The discussion will likely revolve around whether or not New Port Richey should remain in the program or try something different.
The second workshop, at 5pm on January 15th, will be a discussion regarding special events in Sims Park. The park has been quite popular as a venue for special events and it is somewhat the worse for wear as a result. I expect this to be a wide ranging discussion regarding the number, type and size of events in the park.
Parking will likely be discussed. Event goers have historically parked on the old Baptist Church property east of Orange Lake. Given that the property will be an active construction zone momentarily, that will not be an option going forward. Faith Baptist became the first group to arrange for parking shuttles for their event this past fall. It is my understanding that the Chasco Fiesta folks are actively working on a similar solution for this year’s Chasco.
Downtown businesses have been quite vocal in pointing out that special events centered in Sims Park typically do not result in more shoppers downtown. There is evidence that at least some of the special events actively harm the downtown businesses. Should the city sponsor more small scale events in the downtown and fewer large events in Sims Park? I suspect this will come up as well, both at the Main Street workshop on the 2nd and at the special events workshop on the 15th.
There will also be a discussion regarding past events that have failed to pay for the city costs involved in having their events at the park.
Finally, there will be a workshop on February 5th to discuss future Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) projects. This might seem to be a workshop designed for urban redevelopment geeks, but it is actually a very important discussion that we need to have. The CRA is up for renewal this year. There are potentially some very interesting projects that could be funded with CRA dollars. One prime example: The Leisure Lane / Van Doren area. The city, Pasco County, and Habitat for Humanity are currently working closely together to clean up this blighted area. The area is a so-called county enclave that is completely surrounded by the city. Assuming that the city proceeds with plans to annex the area, expanding the CRA to cover it and then using CRA dollars to complete the work that has been started there is worth serious consideration.
I expect that we will also discuss our current residential and commercial grant programs with an eye on making them more effective.
All three workshops start at 5pm and all are open to the public. If you attend, you will have an opportunity to speak and make your thoughts on these issues known.
2019 promises to be an exciting year with continued progress on the horizon. I look forward to seeing how much we can do to make our city an even better place to live, work, and play.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor