07/26/2017 Lighthouse pursues construction of building on Ridge Road

Story re-posted with permission, courtesy of The Suncoast News.

By CARL ORTH assistant editor | The Suncoast News
Published: July 26, 2017

Drawing of the new building An architect envisions the building that Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind wants to build on Ridge Road, east of Little Road. The nearly 9-acre site was once a golf driving range.

Nonprofit group undeterred by Scott grant veto

PORT RICHEY – Despite the veto of a state grant, Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind officials say hopes have not dimmed to build the agency’s new headquarters on Ridge Road.

Sylvia Stinson-Perez, CEO of Lighthouse, believes the nonprofit organization could be ready for groundbreaking in November.

Where golfers once hit golf balls on a defunct driving range, the new Lighthouse would encompass about 17,400 square feet on Ridge Road a bit east of Bass Lake Road, a few miles east of Little Road.

State Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and state Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Port Richey, had really “stepped up” to secure the $1.5 million budget request to build the structure, Perez said in April. That augmented $440,000 Pasco County contributed toward buying the 8.8-acre site.

The Lighthouse state grant, however, was one of many local appropriations Gov. Rick Scott removed from the fiscal 2018 state budget using his veto power.

“Oh yes, we definitely plan to try again” next year for a state grant, Perez said last week.

“So, we have to raise a lot” through private donations in the meantime, she added.

Potential contractors are reviewing the Lighthouse plan now, Perez added.

“Once we select a contractor firm, then we will seek the permits,” Perez remarked. “I suspect we’ll have a groundbreaking in November.”

So, Perez could be busier than ever in 2018 during her 10th year as the CEO of Lighthouse.

The new structure would provide more than three times the space of about 5,500 square feet at 8610 Galen Wilson Blvd. in a Pasco County building that the Lighthouse has leased the past two decades.

“I never would have thought we would be building a building,” Perez said in April.

“If you come in here in the summer time, it’s a madhouse,” Perez said about the current Lighthouse quarters. “We need that space” in a new building.

The blind babies program now has 20 youngsters from birth to 5 years old. The year-old program for children ages 5 to 13 has a dozen members now but probably will boom in the future. Another 18 teens ‘ and young adults participate in the work transition program, with many students working jobs at Publix Supermarkets.

The new facility would include a playground for the children, mobility training track, covered picnic area, babies’ early intervention play …

The Lighthouse has come a long way since its very humble beginning in 1983, publicist Patricia Porter said. Thousands have since passed through Lighthouse doors. The new facility will “enable us to run all of our programs- from babies’ to seniors’ training classes-at one time,” Porter commented. “It will be absolutely amazing.”

The new facility would include a playground for the children, mobility training track, covered picnic area, babies’ early intervention play room, children’s and teens’ zones, adapted training kitchen and classroom, computer labs, Braille classroom, art room with gallery and the Opportunity Center work area. Right now, the Opportunity Center is based at a satellite site on Pine Hill Road. Those who donate at least $250 to help build and furnish the new Lighthouse home will be listed on a plaque in a prominent place of the new building. Naming opportunities are also available.