St. Luke's Cataract & Laser Institute opens new branch in Clearwater landmark

It offers ophthalmology and plastic surgery.
St. Luke's Cataract and Laser Institute opened a new facility Monday in downtown Clearwater at Fort Harrison Avenue and Chestnut Street. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
St. Luke's Cataract and Laser Institute opened a new facility Monday in downtown Clearwater at Fort Harrison Avenue and Chestnut Street.JIM DAMASKE | Times
Published January 8 2013
Updated January 9 2013

CLEARWATER — The pink building on S Fort Harrison Avenue, a downtown Clearwater landmark that housed Webb's Gentleman's Apparel for five decades, is now a center focused on wellness and beauty.

Dr. Pit Gills, eye surgeon and heir to the St. Luke's Cataract and Laser Institute headquartered in Tarpon Springs, and his wife, Joy, hired a Los Angeles spa designer to set the mood in their new two-story center for ophthalmology, dermatology and plastic surgery, which opened Monday.

"We wanted to create a private atmosphere," said Gills at the ribbon-cutting, as city officials sipped white wine and toured the lavender-scented grounds. "Separate waiting rooms with lighting controls, music controls. We thought, 'What would we want if we were patients here?' "

The eye surgeon, who owns six other St. Luke's locations in Florida with his father, Dr. James Gills, chose the downtown location to cut the length of trips to other clinics for their Clearwater patients.

"I drive by it every day," said Gills, who lives on Clearwater Beach. "It's central to everything, a well-known building."

And well-known, even iconic, is the pink color. Gills called the original painter for the exact shade — and ordered a fresh coat. That history, Joy said, must be preserved.

"We didn't want to make anyone in Clearwater mad," she said, laughing.

Before a crowd of community leaders Monday, Clearwater Mayor George N. Cretekos, a longtime family friend of Joy Gills, praised the business.

"St. Luke, as you know, is a physician," Cretekos said. "In his gospel, he talked about the things a physician does — healing people, providing care to people. That's what St. Luke the physician does, and that's what St. Luke's, this clinic, is going to do."

The new facility, he said, is appropriate for downtown Clearwater. It represents revitalization.

The 14,000-square-foot clinic is on an acre of land on the southeast corner of Fort Harrison Avenue and Chestnut Street.

The first floor of the building will contain the new St. Luke's Cataract & Laser Institute, focusing on ophthalmology and eye surgery. The second floor, called Reflections at St. Luke's, will offer plastic surgery, dermatology and cosmetic services.

Architect Jordan Behar, who works in Clearwater, added a private exit-elevator to the building for discretion. "We focused on flow and function above aesthetics," he said.

At the grand opening Monday, Maggie Ciadella, manager of social memberships at Ruth Eckerd Hall, wandered through the gray hallways, past waiters offering trays of smoked salmon and cream cheese. Now, she's considering scheduling an appointment.

"It's so not-clinical," she murmured. "Definitely more 'spa.' "

Danielle Paquette can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4224. To write a letter to the editor, go to