Clearwater is once again seeking development ideas for 2 stunning properties

CLEARWATER – City Council is once again asking developers to submit ideas for what to build on city-owned parcels surrounding the soon-to-be-transformed Coachman Park, advancing a key economic element of the city’s redevelopment project. Imagine Clearwater downtown.

On Wednesday, the city will announce a 30-day concept request for the vacant 2.6-acre City Hall site and the former 1.43-acre Harborview Center site, both of which border the 22-acre waterfront park. acres which is undergoing an $84 million facelift.

Since both properties are protected by the city charter, any plan selected by the council must be approved by voters in November. After the 30-day solicitation window, the council will need to hold two hearings and approve a development deal by the end of July in order to secure the referendum on the ballot in time.

“I don’t think any of us are happy with the short, compressed time frame, but this is the first time I’ve been excited about the real prospects of transforming downtown,” said the member of the advice Mark Bunker during the discussion. at a meeting on Thursday.

“So hopefully we get some really amazing ideas from the developers and the people of Clearwater are excited to see that it can and will work.”

An aerial photo shows City Hall and the parking lot in Clearwater, center, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. The city is proposing the site, along with another parcel, for development in hopes that voters will approve the plans in November. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

City officials issued their first call for developers for bluff sites in January 2021. Of the five bids received, council voted to enter negotiations with Jupiter-based developer Craig Govan, who offered a room restaurant, apartments with retail and a hotel. But Govan withdrew his bid in August when city staff said his requirement for a 400-space parking garage on prime waterfront property was a deal breaker.

In this round of solicitations, the city included a third property: the vacant 1.4-acre lot on Pierce Street on the south side of the park footprint.

However, the Pierce Street lot will not be included in the upcoming developer call.

That’s because City Manager Jon Jennings and Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige are negotiating a potential land swap, where the church would get the Pierce Street land it’s long coveted, and the city would get as yet undisclosed church properties that could be strategic for downtown redevelopment. Jennings said those negotiations are ongoing and could not estimate when a proposed land swap with Scientology might be presented to the board for a vote.

Jennings said he brought up the idea of ​​reintroducing bluff property development after seeing significant interest in the sites during the six months he worked as city manager.

He confirmed that at least three developers have discussed the land with city officials in recent months, including New York’s Gotham, St. Petersburg’s Echelon and Clearwater’s Daniels Ikajevs.

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“I believe the time is right,” Jennings said in an interview Thursday. “Imagine Clearwater’s construction has begun, so there’s no debating whether it will go ahead.”

When the city issued its first call for developers in January 2021, renovations to the park had yet to begin. But when that second solicitation goes out, construction will have been underway for nearly a year on the park, which will include a 4,000-seat indoor amphitheater, garden, playground, bluffing pathway and plaza.

The city’s call for developers will have the same minimum requirements as last time: a component of condos and apartments with at least 150 rental units, ground floor elements with commercial, civic and cultural uses for the public, and leadership standards in energy and environmental design.

Construction of Imagine Clearwater, the $84 million downtown waterfront makeover, is scheduled for Friday, April 15, 2022.
Construction of Imagine Clearwater, the $84 million downtown waterfront makeover, is scheduled for Friday, April 15, 2022. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]

The developer must also specify an offer to purchase or lease the land from the city, depending on the draft application.

Mayor Frank Hibbard said that while the plans should have publicly available elements, he stressed the importance of the development being financially sustainable and an economic driver for the surrounding downtown area.

“We want downtown to stand on its own and carry its weight,” Hibbard said. “We made this $84 million public investment in Imagine Clearwater. The next step is to start using the bluff…it’s a key part of downtown redevelopment.

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