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Business

Parking garage may be in waterfront's future

Port Richey officials hope a parking garage would replace parking lots and offer space for fishing village-style development.

By MATTHEW WAITE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003


PORT RICHEY -- Although very little changed outwardly in 2002, the focus of big business in Port Richey continues to be on the waterfront.

And the waterfront focus will continue in 2003.

Slowly, the city of Port Richey pushed forward a redevelopment plan for the waterfront that includes, and largely hinges upon, the construction of a $2.4-million parking garage.

The city's thinking is that if a parking garage can remove the need for all the parking lots that currently dominate the waterfront area, then other businesses can build there in a fishing village-style development.

With the garage still in the planning stages, a group of investors announced in October that it was going to pour $40-million into the city's waterfront to build a $15-million hotel and gambling boat operation next door to the city's current gambling boat company, Port Richey Casinos.

That's if the garage gets built. A consultant said the garage is key to the hotel's construction but not a deal breaker.

And Port Richey Casinos' part owner Mollie Kolokithas said she's interested in the garage if a proposed partnership with the city gets off the ground. Kolokithas and the city have asked state lawmakers to include them in any expansion of gambling in Florida in the next legislative session.

Kolokithas wants to build a parlor that will allow the expanded gambling and be run by a nonprofit company made up of Port Richey Casinos and Port Richey city government. Profits from the venture would go to the city.

But Kolokithas said that if the venture doesn't fly -- and lawmakers have been lukewarm to expanded gambling -- then she doesn't need the garage.

City Council members said last month that if they are going to build the garage -- it's not clear if they are yet -- then they want one with retail space built into the bottom floor.

The council will decide if it is going to build the garage this year.

-- Matthew Waite covers Port Richey city government. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waite@sptimes.com .

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