Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater agreement previews amenities, finances for new waterfront aquarium

A rendering of the proposed Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which would be built on the present location of City Hall, if voters approve leasing the land in a Nov. 5 referendum.

Courtesy of Clearwater Marine Aquarium

A rendering of the proposed Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which would be built on the present location of City Hall, if voters approve leasing the land in a Nov. 5 referendum.

CLEARWATER — A draft agreement between the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the city contains new details and key financial information about a $160 million aquarium proposed for Clearwater's downtown waterfront.

The memorandum of understanding, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday, will be discussed publicly for the first time at a City Council meeting next week.

The document states that the aquarium would pay the city $150,000 a year to lease the waterfront land on Osceola Avenue where Clearwater City Hall now stands.

The payments would begin after the aquarium paid the city $7.5 million toward a new City Hall — a sum the aquarium would generate through a 50-cent surcharge on admission to the proposed three-story, 200,000-square-foot facility. The land lease would be for 60 years.

Clearwater voters will decide whether to lease the land to the aquarium in a Nov. 5 referendum to be paid for by the aquarium.

City and aquarium officials stressed that the terms of the agreement could change.

"This is sort of an agreement to agree. Nothing is binding until the voters decide," said City Attorney Pam Akin.

David Yates, the aquarium's CEO, said "both sides are very happy" with the agreement.

The city could bear significant costs if the new aquarium is built, including paying to extend Pierce Street to Drew Street and building a roundabout at the western end of Cleveland Street. The cost would be about $615,000, said Mike Quillen, city engineering director.

The city isn't obligated to make those street improvements, Yates said. "That's their call."

The city also would pay for removing asbestos from the old City Hall before the aquarium demolished it. If all three floors contain asbestos, the removal could be "quite expensive," Quillen said.

The benefits of a new aquarium would outweigh city costs, Yates said. The aquarium would expand the tax base downtown and relieve city taxpayers of paying for a new City Hall, he said.

The aquarium also would pay the city $300,000 for four tennis courts that would be destroyed.

The agreement contains some hints of what aquarium officials want to build if they get voter approval of the lease:

• On the first level of the three-level attraction: Everglades, manatee and otter exhibits, a children's area and classrooms.

• On level 2, a large touch tank; coral reef exhibit; dolphin stadium; octopus, jellyfish and sea horse exhibits; turtle tank; and 4-D theater.

• On level 3, 2-D and 4-D theaters, movie prop and coral reef exhibits, community rooms, rooftop deck and catering kitchen.

"Those things can change. It's not fully designed, but a working model," Yates said.

One detail left to iron out: where a parking garage would be built and who would operate it.

Aquarium-owned land on the south side of City Hall is "still the likely location," Yates said, but officials are looking at alternatives.

Under the agreement, the aquarium would be responsible for acquiring land for the garage, but an option is included for the city to build and operate the garage and keep the revenue.

Charlie Frago can be reached at or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago

Clearwater agreement previews amenities, finances for new waterfront aquarium 08/06/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 10:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Manchester police say they have made three more arrests in concert bombing


    BREAKING: Manchester police say they have made three more arrests over pop concert bombing. Stay with for updates.


    People light candles after a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, England, Tuesday May 23, 2017, the day after the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert that left 22 people dead as it ended on Monday night. [Associated Press]
  2. Who will headline the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show in Tampa?


    The NFL announced Tuesday that Tampa will host Super Bowl LV in 2021, a result of stadium construction delays in Los Angeles.

    Taylor Swift performed at Raymond James Stadium in 2015. Could she return for Super Bowl LV in 2021?
  3. New DEP secretary says there's no conflict in political side businesses


    TALLAHASSEE — When Noah Valenstein, the newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, was applying in April to be the state's top environmental regulator, he left one thing off the application: Companies he started and his wife runs have been paid nearly $1 million by politicians and lobbying …

     Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. He will take the helm on June 5, with a salary of $150,000 per year. [Florida Governor's Office]
  4. Trump says 'we can use peace' during meeting with Pope Francis


    VATICAN CITY — President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican City on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.

    Pope Francis meets with President Donald Trump on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. [Associated Press]
  5. Pinellas construction licensing board looking for ways to fill financial hole

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board's interim leader told the governing board Tuesday that the troubled agency is looking for ways to climb out of its