Sims Park Improvements – A City’s Rebirth

Sims parkJust four years ago, the city of New Port Richey was showing signs of decline. A once vital
downtown was becoming quiet. The nearby park, Sims Park, became a favorite destination
for the less desirable. It’s a familiar and natural progression: when families don’t feel safe in your park, they stop going, and when they stop going, the criminal element take hold. During this downward spiral, the number of city residents dropped from 19,000 to below 15,000. Our city’s parks and recreation department was a leading resource to effect change.

A park improvement project on Sims Park encouraged a healthy turnaround. Built along the Pithlachascotee River in the heart of downtown,
the park’s recent redevelopment made a dramatic, positive impact on our overall economic
development and aided the rebirth of our city. In
fact, once the Sims Park Improvement Project began, the occupancy rate of our downtown businesses improved by 20 percent.According to
our economic development director, 10 new businesses decided to relocate to downtown as a result of park upgrades and improvements.We expect these park improvements to continue to be
a primary contributor to advancing economic development of the Main Street businesses and residences. The purchase of homes in our city is on the rise; and high-end developments are moving forward, including upscale housing projects as a direct result of the Sims Park Improvement Project.

Grand Boulevard in New Port Richey shows signs of vitality in the downtown.

  • A Community Gardening Ordinance was approved to provide access to fresh produce and plants. The ordinance also creates a means for neighborhood improvements, a sense of community and a connection
    to the environment.
  • The Police Department focuses on positive
    community contact by having a regular presence in our parks and interacting with residents and visitors. Our officers get out of their vehicles to walk the sidewalks along Main Street and ride their bikes through the parks. This proactive approach has contributed to our city’s recovery.

On the south side of the Main Street Bridge, just a short walk across the bridge from
Sims Park, is Main Street Landings. Currently under construction, once completed it
will offer upscale housing on the upper floors and shops on the street level.

Numerous efforts are still being made by multiple departments:

  • A Home Improvement Reimbursement Grant
    program created by the Development Department promotes “street friendly” housing by encouraging homeowners to include porches, windows and doors that are oriented to the street. The program promotes a sense of community by encouraging residents to spend time in their yards and on front porches.
  • The Recreation Department hosts special events in Sims Park with forethought to how       the event can positively impact our downtown, such as a History Walking Tour with 150 participants highlighting our downtown community theater as one of the destinations. Family movie nights in Sims Park enable families to have dinner downtown, grab an iced coffee or ice cream and then walk to a free movie in the park.

Contributors come from many fronts. The front line staff of the Grounds Maintenance Division takes special care of Sims Park every day. There is great pride in these employees; a pride in their park and in what they do. And it shows. In addition to the daily cleaning of the park, the staff greets visitors, relays information about Sims Park amenities and events and even provides directions to local restaurants and shops.

So how does one park improvement project effect change and impact economic development? The park becomes the heart of the city, creating a community and drawing people together. The Sims Park Improvement Project emphasized an open line of sight through the park as well as providing for lush green space covered by a beautiful tree canopy. With the completion of the project, many of our residents expressed how the park has a different and a better “feel.”

Sims Park is alive and well, and it has breathed new life into downtown and into our neighborhoods. Once again people are moving to our city, to live here, to open a business, and to have a place where they feel they belong. They enjoy our beautiful parks. This is why we believe in what we do, and why parks play such a vital role in our economic development. We create places where families feel safe and where they can create memories to last a lifetime.

As you stand on the corner of Main Street and Bank, to your right are new shops that recently opened in New Port Richey, to your left is the historic Hacienda Hotel that is undergoing a revitalization project to transform into a Boutique Hotel and atthe end of the block, after the Hacienda, is Sims Park.

Downtown New Port Richey is alive with a variety of shows and restaurants