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Foodie alert: cantina, brewery opening in Safety Harbor

Residents and visitors to downtown Safety Harbor are in for a treat as two new foodie establishments open this month. The downtown area of this small Pinellas County city is known for its quaintness and charm, which is why these new businesses should fit right in.

Coastal Cantina

Aaron Stewart, long-time resident of Safety Harbor and owner of the city’s popular Southern Fresh restaurant, will be opening Coastal Cantina at the end of November. The new restaurant will go where the former Harborita Cantina used to be.

“The cantina is about 2,500-square-feet, with a bar inside and outside,” he says. “The food will be Florida coastal with Latin fusion. We will also have flagship drinks from various countries on the menu and will be doing a lot of fun things with mixology. I think people will really enjoy it.”

Stewart, a graduate of Countryside High School, says unlike other chefs he chose to learn first-hand from chefs he worked under in the restaurant business as opposed to going to culinary school.

With the huge success of Southern Fresh, an old-Florida home turned kitchen serving southern favorites to a packed house for three years now, it seems he made the right choice.

Coastal Cantina will be located at 519 2nd Street South in downtown Safety Harbor.

Crooked Thumb Brewery

Off a winding road lined with oak trees off the beaten path of Main Street in downtown Safety Harbor is a large warehouse that used to be an auto body and paint shop, but will soon be home to Crooked Thumb Brewery.

The 6,000-square-foot space will house a 15 barrel brew system, tasting room, bar and garden.

Why the name? It is because the brewery is located in Pinellas County, which has been said to hang off the west coast of Florida like a crooked thumb.

The brewery will serve only beer, wine and cider; however, patrons are encouraged to order from local restaurants.

The grand opening has yet to be announced, and for now the Crooked Thumb is open on weekends only with limited hours.  For more information visit the brewery’s website.

Crooked Thumb Brewery is located at 555 10th Avenue South in Safety Harbor.

St. Pete College invests in St. Peterburg's midtown

The future looks brighter for the mid-town area of downtown St. Petersburg with the purchase of two large buildings by St. Petersburg College (SPC). The $1.2 million investment has been years in the making, and aims to help reinvigorate the struggling neighborhood by providing scholarships and economic opportunity to public housing residents.

“The purchases will help stabilize the neighborhood,” says Bill Law, President of SPC since 2010.

Law intends to turn both structures into community resources for the area, which is seeing a rebirth of economic activity. One of the buildings, currently known as the Cecil B. Keene Center for Achievement, is a 10,556-square-foot structure located at 22nd Street South; the other an 11,136-square-foot gymnasium at 1201 22nd Street South. Both were previously owned by the St. Petersburg Housing Authority.

As for plans for the future of the two buildings, that is still to be decided.

“People in mid-town have been waiting to get this done, so we can take the next steps,” says Law. “SPC will revisit the community dialogues it's been having with the midtown community. Our goal is to present our Board of Trustees with new ideas on next steps to support the community within the next 60 to 90 days.”

As part of the agreement to purchase the buildings from the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, SPC agreed to provide five students from public housing with $1,000 scholarships each per year for 30 years to enroll at SPC. The college also agreed to provide 10 $250 textbook scholarships per year for 30 years and five surplus computers per year for 30 years to public housing residents enrolled at SPC.

First pop-up store in Hyde Park Village opens in time for holidays

As the holiday season draws near, Hyde Park Village, will open its very first pop-up store selling toffee treats to customers.

Tampa Bay-based, Toffee to Go, a specialty holiday shop exclusively at Hyde Park Village, will open on Thursday, Nov. 19, is best known for being one of Oprah's Favorite Things in 2013.

“We wanted to bring in a pop-up store that would be a perfect fit for the holidays, and felt that Toffee to Go would be a perfect holiday gift for everyone to enjoy,” says Gabby Soriano of WS Development, which manages Hyde Park Village. “They have an incredible reputation in Tampa, they are locally owned and their product is absolutely delicious.”

Toffee to Go will be located at 1607 West Snow Circle next door to Color Me Mine and Carlton Ward Photography.

The pop-up store will open "just in time for our annual Enchanted Tree Lighting event on November 21st," says Soriano. “Their last day will be on Thursday, December 31st.”

Soriano goes on to explain the Enchanted Tree Lighting event, is free to the public and includes craft brews, food trucks, kids fun zone, in-store events, live music from Late Night Brass, visit with Santa and the lighting of the tree.

There will also be other holiday events at the Village including National Shop Small Business Day.

“On Saturday, November 28th, we will be celebrating National Shop Small Saturday with a 'Show Your Love for Local' event with live music in the village circle, in-store events and special promotions and giveaways all day," Soriano says.

There will also be visits with Santa throughout the month of December, for a calendar of events, visit Hyde Park Village's website.
 
While Toffee to Go will only be temporary, it joins permanent stores that recently opened at Hyde Park Village, including make-up store Bluemercury, furniture store Blue Moon Trading Company and clothing store J. McLaughlin.

Revolution Ice Cream Company plans move to Seminole Heights, Tampa

Fans of Revolution Ice Cream Company will no longer have to drive to Brandon to buy a scoop or two of their favorite flavors. 

The local, independent ice cream parlor that is popular for its unique flavor blends (such as pumpkin-spiced RumChata) is opening its second store in the trendy Tampa neighborhood of Seminole Heights. 

The new store is slated to open at 6701 North Florida Avenue in Tampa in mid-December. 

“Seminole Heights seems to be the place for food,” says Bill Workman, owner of Revolution Ice Cream. “It’s a neat, tightly knit community.”
 
Workman opened the innovative ice cream parlor at 220 W. Brandon Boulevard during March 2013 with his wife, Leslee, after growing a thriving ice cream business from their home. 

“I started making different flavors of ice cream in our kitchen using a Cuisinart, and soon we were filling orders for friends’ parties. We had people pulling up into our driveway, leaving their cars with cash in hand, and walking out of our house carrying brown paper bags five minutes later.” He laughs, “It’s a good thing the cops were never called on us!”
 
Revolution Ice Cream, which carries about 20 flavors – roughly a dozen regulars and eight seasonal flavors – would seem to be the brainchild of a master chef with training in a multitude of confectionary cooking disciplines. Not so. Revolution Ice Cream represents Workman’s first foray in the restaurant business. 

“People ask me how I come up with these flavors, but I don’t know. It just happens – it’s a God-given talent.” 

Workman mentions his mom was a dietician and prepared meals for him when he was growing up that none of his friends ate. 

“I guess you could say I was a foodie before ‘foodie’ was even a term,” says Workman, who is in his early 40s.
 
For Workman, running an ice cream parlor is just one of the many hats he’s worn in his eclectic career. 

“I’ve worked in insurance, mortgage lending, and big box retail,” he says. “I took a few college classes but didn’t graduate, so I guess you could say I went to the School of Hard Knocks.”
 
So how did he venture into making a smorgasbord of ice cream concoctions with names like “Pomegranate Rosemary,” “Eurotrash” (Nutella ice cream and Biscoff cookie crumbles), and “Porky’s Delight” (vanilla with bacon and bacon brittle)? 

“I get inspired when I walk through the grocery store and say ‘I want to make an ice cream flavor out of that.’” 

Meanwhile, the concept for the hip ice cream hangout came from a trip the Workmans made to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

“I came across a store called Oh Yeah! Ice Cream & Coffee. I thought it had a cool vibe and neat flavors of ice cream,” he recalls. “When we came back to Florida, we couldn’t find anything like it here.” 

The couple launched a Kickstarter campaign and later took a chance by offering free ice cream for the first four days the new store was opened. “On Day 5, we started charging, and people still came.”
 
In addition to the Brandon storefront location, Workman also operates a Revolution Ice Cream food truck, which draws a crowd wherever it stops. Revolution Ice Cream has more than 5,500 followers on Facebook and a Yelp* rating of 4.5 with over 100 ratings. It’s therefore no surprise that Workman expects good things for the new location in Tampa. “I think Seminole Heights will blow Brandon out of the water!”

Reed at ENCORE! Tampa is completed, fully occupied

The Reed at ENCORE! Tampa, a new senior building between downtown Tampa and Ybor City, is now complete and fully occupied. 
 
The Reed is part of a larger designed community encompassing 28 acres and expected to cover 12 city blocks. Plans include a variety of housing for all ages, including low income as well as market rate rentals and sales. 
 
Though the near $30-million Reed at ENCORE building already houses more than 150 seniors, there are some final touches to be completed.
 
“There is a design element remaining to be installed, the maestro’s baton, which is a large public art element, which will grace the front entry way of the building,” says Leroy Moore, COO for the Tampa Housing Authority.
 
According to Moore, the Reed building has special significance to the area.
 
“Reed is our second senior building and the third building overall to open at ENCORE,” he says. ‘The building is named after Essie Mae Reed, a local pioneer in women’s rights and public housing, and Tampa’s first black female to qualify to run for city council.”
 
To honor the late-Essie Mae Reed, a bust was revealed at the ribbon cutting, which was attended by U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. During the event, Castor read a proclamation she read on the floor of Congress honoring Ms. Reed several years ago. The mayor shared memories of times he spent with the pioneer. The Reed family shared their emotional comments about how profoundly honored they feel to have such a remembrance of their family member.

Waterline: New resort coming to Anna Maria Island, Bradenton

Waterfront suites, water activities and signature restaurant are just a few luxuries that will be included in a new resort coming to Anna Maria Island just off the Gulf coast by Bradenton in Manatee County.

The Waterline Resort, which will open in fall 2016, is the latest project for the Mainsail Lodging & Development team. The team is also known for their work on the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa.
 
This new project on Anna Maria Island, which is located just minutes from Bradenton, will offer guests both luxury and excitement.
 
“The resort will feature 37 stylish 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom suites with gourmet kitchens, says Joe Collier, President  of Mainsail Lodging & Development. “Waterline’s separate beach club will offer exclusive beach access with kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, lounge chairs, umbrellas, beach toys and a ‘desalination zone’ for guests to cool down and relax.”
 
Collier, a graduate of Florida State University, says the resort will also offer 2,000-square-feet of meeting space, a signature restaurant and bar and a 50-slip marina.
 
“The Waterline marina will be the center of aquatic activity at the resort with boat slips for guests who arrive by water, charter boats for family outings, eco-tours, guided fishing excursions, sailing adventures and daily sunset cruises,” he says.  
 
Collier also notes that Waterline has already formed a partnership with the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.
 
“Based on a shared commitment to environmental stewardship, Waterline is looking forward to establishing a unique, strictly educational partnership with the world-renowned Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium,” he says. “The educational partnership is planned to include a variety of eco-experiences and will enhance and enrich the overall destination experience for Waterline guests and locals alike.”
 
The Waterline Resort will be located at 5325 Marina Drive in Holmes Beach on the East shore of Anna Maria Island. For more information, visit the resort’s website.

BayCare signs deal to acquire Bartow Regional Medical

BayCare Health System signed an agreement in mid-October to acquire Bartow Regional Medical Center. The 72-bed Bartow facility and its related physician clinics and outpatient care facilities are currently owned by the for-profit Community Health Systems.

The transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the year, will give Clearwater-based BayCare its second hospital in Polk County.

“Winter Haven Hospital, which was established in 1926, integrated with Baycare on August 30, 2013," says Amy Lovett of BayCare Health System. “This agreement provides us the opportunity to have a second hospital in Polk County, which helps us anchor other health services needed by this large and growing county.”

 While Lovett would not go into detail about what kind of financial impact this transaction will have on BayCare, according to a news release from the healthcare organization, connecting Bartow Regional Medical Center with Winter Haven Hospital and South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City, a triad of BayCare hospitals offer a continuum of broader community health services in Eastern Hillsborough and Polk County.

BayCare currently has 13 hospitals and hundreds of physician clinics and outpatient care facilities throughout the Tampa Bay and central Florida regions. Founded in 1997, with 23,600 employees, the not-for-profit healthcare system runs local hospitals including Morton Plant in Clearwater, Morton Plant North Bay in New Port Richey, St. Anthony’s in St. Petersburg, St. Joseph’s in Tampa, St. Joseph’s North in Lutz, St. Joseph’s South in Riverview, Mease Dunedin and Mease Countryside near Safety Harbor. 

5 new restaurants pick Westshore area of Tampa to call home

Five new restaurants are about to be calling the Westshore area of Tampa home. Three of the restaurants are going into International Plaza, making for a night out for foodies a cinch if you want to try all three in one trip.
 
YO! Sushi
 
One of the most innovative concepts coming to International Plaza is YO! Sushi. The sushi joint has become popular and well-known for its unique ordering process.
 
“To make ordering fun and easy, dishes are served via the “kaiten” otherwise known as a conveyor belt, with color and price coded plates ranging from $3 to $7 dollars,” says Darren Wightman, VP of Operations for YO! Sushi.
 
In addition to ordering off the “kaiten,” guests can order other dishes using an airline style call button.
 
Wightman, who graduated with a degree in catering and hospitality from William Angliss College, with a certificate in wine studies from the UK Wine and Spirit Education Trust, says the restaurant serves a variety of sushi including sashimi, maki hand rolls, spicy tuna rolls and vegetarian options. Yo! Sushi also provides a variety of wine, beer and sake.
 
This will be the second location in the Tampa Bay area, with the other being located at The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota.
 
“We love the Florida market,” Wightman says.  “Due to our recent Sarasota opening and the positive response, the Tampa market was a natural next step for the brand. It is a vibrant market, with a diversity of cultures.”
 
Yo! Sushi will be having a grand opening celebration when they open October 28th.
 
TAPS
 
Also located at International Plaza is TAPS, an upscale bar nestled in the heart of Bay Street across from Bar Louie and The Blue Martini. TAPS had its grand opening in September.
 
With flat screen televisions located both inside and outside the establishment, this is a great place to go to watch games and drink craft beer. In addition to the wide variety of beer, wine and spirits, the restaurant also has a reputation for great food. Known for their house-baked meatballs and Tuna Crudo, which is served at their other locations throughout Florida, it is a staple for the brasserie. Other menu items include short rib ragu, steak fritz and burgers.
 
Doc B’s
 
The third International Plaza newbie is Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen. Named in honor of the owner’s father, who always said ‘Everything in moderation,’ this restaurant is one of the healthier choices for foodies.
 
Options include kale salad, roasted chicken and salad -- all made from with ingredients from local farmers. There are also more indulgent offerings including burgers, crispy chicken sandwichs and filet-mignon. Remember what Doc B says? Everything in moderation.
 
Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen is scheduled to open in November.
 
 Lucky Dill
 
The former Boizao Steakhouse location at 4606 West Boy Scout Boulevard, will soon be transformed into the Lucky Dill Deli. Lucky Dill already runs a deli and bakery in Palm Harbor.  
 
Lucky Dill is a New York-style deli offering soups, salads, flatbreads, sandwiches and an array of entrees. Favorites include matzo ball soup, corned beef sandwich and Coney Island Potato Knish. The restaurant is also known for its breakfast menu and bakery, especially when the weekend rolls around.
 
Lucky Dill in Westshore is expected to open by end of 2015.
 
Thai Prime
 
Located in the MetWest retail and office complex across from the International Plaza mall you will soon find Thai Prime. The restaurant is a concept from the owners of Thai Samurai in Trinity. Like the established restaurant in Pasco County, Thai Prime will serve authentic Thai cuisine.
 
With 2,613-square-feet, the restaurant will also feature a full liquor bar and outdoor seating.
 
Thai Prime at MetWest is expected to open in December.

Moving to Tampa: New luxury apartments coming to Westshore

The Westshore area of Tampa, long known as a thriving business district, continues to grow as a residential community with the addition of The Westly, a new luxury apartment complex under construction. The 262-unit apartment complex joins other new developments including Grady Square and the Crescent, also under construction.

The Westly is a multimillion dollar project that the Framework Group is developing, and was formerly known as the 4310 Spruce project. The decision to build a complex on Spruce was a strategic one based on serving the needs of the existing Westshore area.

“We chose to build in Westshore because we wanted to target young professionals, and Westshore has the largest employment base in the Tampa region,” Framework President Phillip Smith says. “We also liked the proximity to retail and restaurants in the area.”  

Apartments range from approximately 600-square-feet for a studio to over 1,600-square-feet for a three-bedroom. Smith says what sets this project apart from other developments is the amenities.

“Apartments on the top floor feature ten-foot-high ceilings, each unit has high-end appliances, the bathrooms feature rain head showers, everything is high-end,” he says.

He goes on to say that the complex will also feature a clubhouse with a sauna and massage rooms, a pool and courtyards, and a gaming room with a golf simulator, multiple televisions, putting green, pool table and casual seating.

Smith, who received his master’s degree from Harvard and bachelor’s degree from Auburn, has several other projects in the works including a 21-story building on Harbour Island and a 220-unit development in downtown Sarasota.

Plans call for the first units at The Westly to be available in June of 2016.

Plans call for 800 new homes in west Hillsborough River neighborhood

More homes are being added to the plans for the West River redevelopment project being designed by the Tampa Housing Authority. Another 800 homes are now envisioned as part of the 1,600 already included in the $500 million redevelopment project.

The West River redevelopment project is part of the city of Tampa’s plans to transform a 194 acres of land along the Hillsborough River into a mixed-income neighborhood. The plan to add 800 new homes was made after re-evaluating the project.
 
After a more complete market study of the urban area affected, "it just made sense to add these additional homes,” says Leroy Moore, COO for the Tampa Housing Authority.  “The opportunity was there, and the market study showed that with the higher number of units being there, the market would support it.”

With the new plan, the 2,400 homes will be mixed-use, but also mixed-income meaning there will be a combination of public housing and market-rate units.

“This is a mixed-income project,” Moore says. “By mixed-income we mean housing that is affordable to persons below 80-percent area medium income being housed in the same building with units that are at market rent as well, so that the diversity of income is all within one building.”

As for when the units will be ready, Moore says it could take time depending on when funding comes through.

“It will be a phase development, which could mean it would be five to 10 years before the units are complete,” he says. “But we could have buildings starting as early as late next year. We are pursuing funding this year to try to get this project underway as soon as possible.”

New outlet mall opens in Wesley Chapel later this month

Tampa Premium Outlets is getting ready to open later this month in Wesley Chapel.

Simon Property Group, which operates 86 outlets around the world, designed and will manage the new Wesley Chapel mall.

“The Tampa outlet is beautiful,” says Les Morris, spokesman for Simon. “It has a Key West feel to it with palm trees and fountains. I think people are really going to enjoy the atmosphere, in addition to the many shops the outlet has to offer.”

With 90 stores opening, Morris offers a list of some of the store names including: Ann Taylor Factory Store, Bass Factory Outlet, Calvin Klein, Columbia Sportswear, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren and Vera Bradley.

The 441,000-square-foot shopping center will also feature a food pavilion with diverse dining options to choose from.

With the new outlet opening, hundreds of jobs have been created as well.

“Many of the jobs have been filled, but between part-time and full-time positions we expect to employ about 800 people,” Morris says. “That number doesn’t include the jobs that were created during the construction phase. This project has and will create a lot of jobs for the Tampa Bay area.”

Tampa Premium Outlets is scheduled to have its grand opening October 29th.  The grand opening will include a weekend of special activities and giveaways, along with a guest appearance by television personality Bethenny Frankel.

The new outlet is located at 2398 Grand Cypress Drive in Wesley Chapel. For a complete list of stores visit the outlet’s website

De Soto National Memorial undergoes renovations, tech upgrade

The Visitor Center at the De Soto National Memorial near Bradenton, built as part of the National Park Service Mission 66 initiative, recently underwent its first major renovations since its construction in 1969. 

The renovation project took six months to complete and includes fresh paint and updated fixtures, the installation of a new welcoming station and front desk in the Visitor Center, and upgrades to the audio-visual system that plays the National Memorial’s park movie — a feature that Lead Park Ranger Daniel Stephens says is central to the park’s mission.  

Stephens describes the renovation as a “top-to-bottom thorough cleaning and across the board audio-visual upgrade.” The newly enhanced lighting, sound system, and 75-inch LCD television, Stephens says, is a “huge technological improvement” from the outdated projection system that was replaced in the renovation. 

De Soto National Memorial, 5 miles west of Bradenton, Florida, commemorates the 1539 landing of Hernando de Soto and the first extensive organized exploration by Europeans of what is now the southern United States.

During peak season, in the months of November through April, the park receives up to 50,000 visitors, many of whom Stephens says are seasonal residents who return to the park annually. 

“Several visitors said to us, ‘this place needs to clear out the cobwebs,’ and that was a wakeup call to us. While we’ve done so much to change the outward appearance of the park grounds, we’d never looked at the Visitor Center,” Stephens says.

“A national park is not a static entity. These renovations give the sense that this is not an old space: we do listen to visitor feedback, and we do change.”

Visitor Center renovations were completed with $5,000 in fundraising from the nonprofit group, Friends of De Soto National Memorial; $5,000 in matched proceeds from Eastern National, a cooperating partner supplying the park’s bookstore, and with funding from “America the Beautiful,” part of the Federal Lands Pass recreation program, which provided over $6,000 for the project.

Gonzmart seeks food service contract at Tampa Convention Center

One of Tampa’s most notable restaurateurs has announced his intentions to provide food service to the Tampa Convention Center.

Richard Gonzmart, most well known as being a co-owner of the Columbia Restaurant group, is teaming up with Lutz-based Spectra by Comcast Spectacor on the project. While there is currently no request for proposals for a food and beverage contract for the Tampa Bay Convention Center, that is not stopping the determined Gonzmart.

“I always said I wanted to be in the convention center,” an enthusiastic Gonzmart said to media gathered along the Tampa Riverwalk on a bright afternoon this past week. “And when you see what we’re going to do, you’re going to say, “Wow, why didn’t somebody else think of that?”

The company Gonzmart is teaming up with, Spectra, is a food service company with service contracts in casinos, sports arenas and other convention centers around the U.S.

While the pair did not give any details about the type of cuisine they plan on serving, Ken Young, founder and president of Spectra assured it would be quality food.

During the press conference, Gonzmart mentioned that jobs would be created should his bid be accepted.

“There will definitely be a positive economic impact,” he saya. “With that will be job creation, it will be a very exciting time for the area. There is so much potential here, and we already have the most beautiful setting with the center located right here on the Hillsborough River. You can take a boat over to Harbour Island, there is this great Riverwalk, it’s a great location.”

Request for proposals on food service bids will be sent out in the next few weeks. Proposals are due in the first quarter of 2016.

Contemporary townhomes rising in North Hyde Park

North Hyde Park will soon have some Cuban flavor as new townhomes are built with the inspiration of the small country less than 100 miles south of Florida. The Las Azoteas townhomes will be located at 405 North Oregon Avenue.

“We came up with the name Las Azoteas because loosely translated it means rooftop, or rooftop terrace, which these townhomes have,” says Michael Mincberg, president of Sight Real Estate. Sight teamed up with local entrepreneurs Renier and Michelle Gobea on the project. “I don’t know of any other townhome in Hyde Park that has a rooftop terrace, which is a shame because we live in Florida, and people should have the ability to enjoy some outdoor living space.”

There will be 39 units total when the project is completed at the end of 2016. Each unit is between 1,700-square-feet and 2,000-square-feet. There are two- and three-bedroom options, as well as one- or two-car attached garages.

“We wanted to provide ample living space for people who want to live in this part of town,” Mincberg says. “There is this urban renaissance going on, where people are moving back to the urban core, and North Hyde Park has more to offer when you look at other neighborhoods, such as the proximity to downtown, being within walking distance to great restaurants, even being zoned for Plant High School. People love that about North Hyde Park for the resale value, even if they don’t have kids.”

In addition to the location, Mincberg says he believes the townhomes will be a hit due to the price point, which will begin in the low $300,000s.

“It is very hard to find a product like this for a price point that low,” he says. “I think this is a product people are starving for, there is nothing like it in the area.”

Hacienda Hotel, Sims Park undergo renovations in downtown New Port Richey

An iconic hotel from yesteryear along with a popular park in downtown New Port Richey are both getting revitalized as the city focuses on making downtown a more livable and walkable area.

The Hacienda Hotel, built in 1929 in the center of downtown, most recently served as an assisted living facility, which closed in  2006. The once lively rooming quarters has been sitting vacant ever since.

“We plan to re-open the Hacienda as a historic boutique hotel,” says Mario Iezzoni, Economic Development Director for the city of New Port Richey. “Work on the hotel will begin in December, and is expected to be completed by April of next year.”

Iezzoni goes on to say that the city is looking at different plans for the 34,000-square-foot hotel, however, a 40-room layout seems to be ideal. What is of most importance is keeping the historic elements of the hotel intact, he says.

“There is a generational connection with the Hacienda Hotel,” he says. “Being built in the 1920s, people have moved in the area throughout the years, and many have a strong connection to the hotel. Whether they had their prom there, or they had a parent work there or even a loved one living in the nursing facility when it was used in that capacity, many of the residents have some kind of connection.”

Sims Park, which is located next to the Hacienda Hotel, is getting upgrades thanks to funds from Pennies for Pasco. The park, which hosts many events throughout the year, will have its renovations completed by the end of 2015.

Upgrades at the park include a new playground, splash pad and more walkways.

According to Iezzoni, the $2-million dollar project will is expected to pay off as its economic impact on the community will be great.

“We reached out the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council to help us with some analysis, and they told us on an annual average basis we would see a $4.5-million dollar economic impact to our urban downtown area per year,” he says. “It’s important we invest in these projects, because it really is the centerpiece of downtown.”
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