This past week featured a road trip to Yulee. “Where is Yulee?”, you might ask. It is the very last intersection on I-95 before you find yourself in Georgia. It is right at four hours away, assuming you don’t speed, in which case it will take you longer to get there after you exchange pleasantries with the nice officers in the four separate speed traps on US 301 south of Baldwin.
I took the trip to Yulee with our city manager and our economic development director (Debbie Manns and Mario Iezzoni) to check out the Florida Hotel. The Florida Hotel is owned and operated by the folks who want to fix up the Hacienda Hotel and return it to its former greatness. The Florida Hotel is pretty much what I would expect for a motel in the middle of nowhere along the Interstate. The Rosners have been working hard to fix up the place. Their progress was clear after seeing one of the rooms they haven’t fixed up yet. The Florida Hotel is by no means the Ritz Carlton, but it is far better than what it was when they bought it.
I didn’t see anything that would keep me from wanting the city to continue to try to craft a redevelopment agreement with the Rosners for the Hacienda.
The best part of the trip was actually the eight hours of brain storming with Mrs. Manns and Mr. Iezzoni. We had an opportunity share our dreams of what New Port Richey could be if we put our minds to it. I was amazed at the number of things we came up with that could be done sooner rather than later and at a nominal expense.
We have an amazing resource in the Cotee River and the parks that line it. There are a half a dozen business opportunities that could take advantage of our river and are simply waiting for someone realize that nobody else has figured it out yet. We’re going to start looking for the sort of folks who could take advantage of these opportunities and turn them into profitable businesses. If you have a water based business and you haven’t talked to Mario Iezzoni, you need to. NOW. As the expression goes: “You snooze, you lose.”
We talked about the way that the SMARTstart Business Incubator has taken off. There were easily a couple hundred folks at the ribbon cutting on Thursday. I’m pretty sure that the folks over at the PEDC (Pasco Economic Development Council) have been surprised at the excitement generated by the Incubator opening in New Port Richey.
I’m not surprised. Ever since the the collapse of the Community Development Partners plan to redevelop the Hacienda and bulldoze the old Post Office for parking, it has been clear to me that we had a gem just waiting to be cleaned up and put to use. The fact that the first three startups in the Incubator are tech firms doesn’t hurt my feelings either.
Fledgling businesses outgrowing their space in the Incubator, along with ancillary businesses that are going to want to be next to the Incubator are going to start snapping up the empty suites across the alley. The only question in my mind is who is going to move in first.
Imagine a downtown where empty space is hard to find.
We talked about the Marine district (the old Community Hospital and surrounding area) and some of the ideas that are being floated around by various companies for repurposing the buildings in that area. Some of the ideas are seriously cool and could attract quite a few very well paying tech jobs.
Well paid professionals are going to want to live close to work. Imagine what will happen to our neighborhoods as these young professionals start buying up homes and fixing them up.
Imagine what happens when these same professionals decide to go out for a night on the town or have a business lunch at one of our downtown restaurants. I had the opportunity to have lunch with two reps from a major national telecommunications company last week at Boulevard Beef & Ale. They were amazed when they realized what a nice downtown we have and they were blown away by the great food quality at Boulevard Beef & Ale. I was pleased to gather information on how large an Internet feed we can get downtown and to the Marine district.
We are talking about nothing short of a complete reimagination of what it means to live and work in New Port Richey.
I will be writing about some of these initiatives once we have a chance to flesh them out a bit more.
The other cool thing this past week was the KiaFest / Main Street Blast. Everybody should personally thank John Gilliss for sponsoring the event. We need to also thank Steve Schurdell with Greatest Hits 106 for lining up a killer selection of musical acts, including my favorite local band, the Black Honkeys. I heard that the fireworks Saturday night were great, but I had long since fallen asleep before they went off. Full days both Friday and Saturday finally caught up with me.
I’ve got a full week on my schedule beginning tomorrow. I can hardly wait.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor
City of New Port Richey