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BeachWalk wins fans

CLEARWATER

Picture white sand, two spiraling limestone promenades, a couple of topless European women (they probably don't know that's against the law here) and thousands of swimsuit-clad visitors, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what's drawing people to Clearwater Beach's newest amenity: BeachWalk.

The $30.4-million brick walkway wasn't so marvelous when work crews were ripping out streets, chewing up parking lots and causing mini dust storms.

But — almost complete eight months ahead of schedule — people are now raving about it.

Sure you still get some complainers, but since the project opened earlier this month, there's been a ton of people out there who are ecstatic about the revitalization effort.

"I'd been kind of shying away from the area, but, wow, look at it — it looks pretty good," said Tony Braica, 64, a Largo resident.

Sitting on a bench with Judy, his wife of 44 years, the couple marveled at their favorite beach.

"It's a lot easier to walk on this than it is the sand," he said as the two drank water in front of the Barefoot Beach House.

Designed to make the beach a more attractive destination, the project features two half-mile long promenades that begin at Pier 60 and run south along both sides of South Gulfview Boulevard, decorative showers, greenery and a seating area to watch the sunset.

Work began in March 2007 and wasn't expected to wrap up until early next year, but speedy construction crews and good weather made the difference.

And, despite the beach's notorious lack of parking, it's packed.

"It looks a whole lot better, and more and more people are coming here to check it out," said Bryan Alexander, 29, a waiter at Britt's Laguna Grill. "I know we've gotten busier."

By the numbers

$30.4-million

What it cost to build BeachWalk

13
Months it took to construct

8
Months it was finished ahead of schedule
482
Parking spots BeachWalk took away

452
Parking city kept or added through leases in the area

BeachWalk wins fans 04/27/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 4, 2008 11:40am]
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