As Imagine Clearwater plans unfold, a question: How to design the bandshell?

Published July 5 2018

CLEARWATER —With preliminary engineering plans now in hand, the city’s ambitious waterfront redevelopment project has one over-arching design question.

Should the new and improved concert bandshell include a canopy feature to provide shade for 2,200 seats? It would cost an extra $5 million.

Pre-design documents now estimate the Imagine Clearwater project will cost about $52.2 million, slightly below the highest original projection of $55 million. The updated figure includes infrastructure the initial estimate did not: a $5.75 million price tag on the new concert bandshell plus a $5 million shade canopy feature.

Assistant City Manager Micah Maxwell said staff will collect public input from through a town hall meeting in August, and comments from the City Council, to give Stantec consultants direction on the bandshell and other features so they can begin the remaining engineering work in the fall.

Beyond having to determine features for the bandshell, the preliminary design so far closely mirrors what was laid out in the conceptual plan finalized in February 2017.

The city is on an accelerated timeline to complete Imagine Clearwater, a redesign of the 66 waterfront acres just west of downtown in hopes it will rejuvenate the long-struggling urban core.

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Originally pitched as a 10-year project, now the city plans to have most of the redevelopment completed in 2021, including: converting Coachman Park into a garden with a playground, picnic areas and splash pad; building a green for concerts where the 429-space parking lot behind the Harborview Center is now; a nature element under the Memorial Causeway; a winding Bluff Walk with shaded paths, gardens and terraces; and a gateway plaza with water features and event space at the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue, where the nearly empty Harborview Center now sits.

The only portion of Imagine Clearwater now expected to drag past 2021 is the redevelopment of the City Hall and Harborview sites into mixes of retail and residential uses. The city is free to demolish both buildings now but any redevelopment on the two sites must be approved by voters in a referendum.

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Stantec’s pre-design has minor deviations from the original concept, like a revised traffic pattern for the south of the park and a slightly larger concert green to accommodate the bandshell.

What was first pitched as a brackish estuary under the Memorial Causeway with a marsh garden, lagoon and cyrpress groves has now been changed to just be called "The Lake." It could be more accurately described as a stormwater pond.

Maxwell said city staff and consultants had concerns about ongoing maintenance for a tidal body, so a retention area is a more viable option that still provides "treatment for the environment and aesthetic views."

The consultants’ concerns about safety also nixed a proposed kayak launch area on the waterfront.

Construction is not expected to begin until sometime in early 2019. But consultants have pegged the concert green and the civic gateway area — except for the mixed-use building, which must be approved by voters — to be the first portions completed.

Although design work is only in the early stages, Maxwell said the next month of analysis will be key for keeping the project on track.

"Certainly several things we’ll have to hammer out, but it’s coming along," he said.

Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.