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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Clearwater in a pickle, er, Pickles



Food018 If Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard had his way, he'd probably take a sledge hammer to it. If Councilman Paul Gibson could do it, he'd probably use dynamite.

Yes folks, it doesn't look too good for the Harborview Center, the former department store on the west end of the downtown's newly revitalized Cleveland Street. With its fabulous view of the Memorial Causeway, it currently houses a Pickles deli, Stein Mart and a 65,000 square-foot convention center.

But it costs the city about $300,000 a year to run. And even left empty, the city would still have to underwrite the building for about $100,000 a year. The problem? Well, the city just can't tear it down because a loooong time ago former city officials - then called the City Commission -- agreed to a contract that lets Pickles essentially hold the city hostage for the next 12 years until its lease runs out.

The deli told city leaders that it intends to stay, something Hibbard called "gamesmanship," referring to the idea that they just want the city to come up with some scratch to convince owners to set up shop elsewhere.

"It's the worse lease I've ever seen in my life," the mayor said during Monday's City Council work session. Replied Councilman John Doran: "As much as I enjoy buildings getting blown up - and I do - Pickles is there." Yes, folks, as Gibson put it:, The city is in quite a pickle.  And until officials can work out a deal, it doesn't look like anyone is going to be doing anything to the old building for at least a couple of years.

- Mike Donila, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:28am]


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