On the south end of Clearwater Beach, between a Quality Hotel and an EconoLodge, there's a parking lot. Over the years, there have been some ambitious plans for this parking lot.
Back in 2005, during the beach condominium boom, a high-end project called the Clearwater Grande was envisioned for this spot. First it was going to be a 91-unit condo-hotel. Then it was going to be a 68-unit luxury condo. Finally, the whole thing got shelved.
Now, eight years later, the property's owner hopes to build a 15-story Hampton Inn & Suites on the site. It's another sign that, after years of inactivity, development on Clearwater Beach is slowly starting to pick up again.
The 116-room Hampton Inn would be about 165 feet tall and would consist of 10 floors and a swimming pool placed over five levels of parking.
The parking garage's 245 spaces would be shared by the Hampton Inn and the existing Quality Hotel next door at 655 S Gulfview Blvd., which has five floors, 91 rooms and an IHOP restaurant. The Quality Hotel would lose its parking lot to make way for the Hampton Inn.
"Each hotel will have its own identity, but they will share parking," said Housh Ghovaee, CEO of Northside Engineering, which is handling the site plan. He compared it to a food court where restaurants share seating. "It's the same concept here, having two hotels and one parking garage."
Clearwater's Community Development Board will consider Tuesday whether to approve these plans. City staffers haven't yet decided whether to recommend approval. "It's being evaluated," said city planner Kevin Nurnberger.
It remains to be seen whether the development board will approve a project of this height and density on the .8-acre site. The property owner says the plan complies with Clearwater's blueprint for beach redevelopment, called Beach by Design.
The owner is asking for 60 rooms beyond what would normally be allowed there. The city allows beach hotel developers to draw units from a pool of 1,385 extra rooms, building more rooms than they otherwise could per acre.
The so-called "density pool" was created five years ago as an incentive to build mid-sized, mid-priced hotels on the beach, many of which Clearwater lost to condominium construction. The Hampton Inn would meet the need for another mid-priced hotel, with room rates varying from $89 to $160 a night.
"We're excited that a new hotel is going in. It's been long overdue," Ghovaee said. "That speaks volumes about a kick-start in the economy."
The $15 million hotel would create 35 full-time jobs and 20-25 part-time jobs, according to the developer's application to the city.
The Hampton Inn and the Quality Hotel would have the same owner — Steve Page, president of Clearwater Grande Development. Page was the developer for the Westview Grande Condo on Indian Shores and recently won approval to build a 90-room Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Madeira Beach, that city's first new hotel in decades.
Several proposed hotel and condo projects on Clearwater Beach have foundered in recent years due to lending freezes and the recession. The two most recent hotels to open there were the 250-suite Hyatt Regency Resort in 2010, and the smaller, less expensive Pier House 60 Marina Hotel last year.
A developer also recently won approval to build a seven-story, 134-room hotel, probably a Courtyard by Marriott, a block north of the Clearwater Beach Roundabout.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.