CLEARWATER — Toward the end of its life, the old Station Square Park had become a magnet for the homeless, who bathed in its fountain and reclined on its brick planters.
On Thursday morning, years after the old park closed, city leaders unveiled a new and improved park — redesigned to be less welcoming to vagrants.
Speaking to a crowd of nearly 100 people, Vice Mayor George Cretekos called the little urban park off downtown's Cleveland Street "a crown jewel."
"This is part of our efforts not only to revitalize downtown but to make it a destination," he said.
The 24,000-square-foot park, tucked between the Bank of America building and the recently finished Station Square condominiums, features concrete pavers, removable furniture, shade trees and a raised circular stage.
The park had been closed since summer 2006. First, construction crews building the 15-story condo tower used it as a staging area. Then the city decided to revamp it to make it fit better with a streetscaping project on Cleveland Street.
In an interview, City Manager Bill Horne noted some differences between the parks.
The park no longer includes the large semicircular fountain. Instead, a much smaller fountain is alongside Cleveland Street.
Also, the park now has a gate and will close at sunset. Metal studs bolted to its staircases and planters are to discourage skateboarding and sleeping.
The city funded the nearly $1.3 million project mostly with taxes from downtown's Community Redevelopment Area.
Ultimately, the goal is to restore the park to a gathering spot where visitors can eat lunch and listen to poetry or music.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4160.