Pasco leaders plan for US 19 redevelopment

Project could start with retro hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - It's a makeover plan of epic proportions. Officials in Pasco County are hoping to clean up the West side along US 19 and spur redevelopment.

Up and down US 19 in Pasco County, you'll see the blight.  Empty shopping plazas, and tattered signs.

"Places that are in total disrepair," said Another Dimension tattoos owner Mike Balestrieri.

The marquee for the shopping plaza he is in has been busted for years.  "Our landlord, he never does anything to fix up the place. He painted the place 10 years ago, but that's it."

It's that kind of unsightliness that's turned the once-thriving stretch of road into a place some would rather stay away from.

John Hagan is with the Pasco Economic Development Council.  He believes "the issue, in part, is curb appeal."

He's working with county leaders on a redevelopment plan.  They hope to play off close proximity to the gulf by calling the area the 'Harbors West Market.'

The plan's initial draft is 172 pages, detailing everything from transportation to tourism.

"We need to pick some demonstration areas where we can show the impact of what happens when you turn things around," said Hagen.

One of the starting points is the Hacienda Hotel in downtown New Port Richey.  It was a jewel in the area in the 20's and 30's. Now efforts are underway to bring it back to life.

"You'd love to be able to come off of 19, come through a little gateway, come here, have the Hacienda Hotel, have people kayaking on the river. This is the kind of place-making that can spread up and down the 19 area," said Hagen.

Chuck Makra's mom and pop kayak shop has managed to stay afloat for almost a decade on 19, hit by both the economy and the gulf oil spill. He's says he's all for any steps the county will take to help out.

"I think the county can do a lot of clean up in the area and also give the owners a better opportunity to do more advertising with less restrictions," said Makra.

The plan will involve coordination between county and city leaders and will need more than just tax funds to become a reality. Planners says it will also take private investors like those putting up new a Wawa, to have a vision of what this area can become.

To see the draft of the plan go to: http://www.pascocountyfl.net/?nid=1677

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