CLEARWATER — Three years after Clearwater voters narrowly approved building a series of floating concrete docks near downtown's Coachman Park, the project is about two-thirds done and boats have started to dock there.
So far, 85 out of a total of 126 boat slips are finished, and 27 of the slips have been reserved by boaters, said Gordon Wills, the city's acting harbormaster.
The docks just south of the Memorial Causeway bridge are complete. The rest of the docks, to be located just north of the bridge, could be done as early as the end of July.
What's it cost per month to rent one? "Anywhere from $300 to almost $600, depending on the size of the slip," Wills said. The city is charging Clearwater residents $9 per foot per month, and nonresidents $10.50.
The docks — along with a nearby promenade, boardwalk and fishing pier — are intended to enhance a downtown beautification project aimed at drawing visitors and residents with spending power.
Voters signed off on the plan in a 2007 city referendum. It squeaked by with 52 percent of the vote.
The $12.8 million project is a target for critics who call it a waste of taxpayer money. But city officials maintain that it will eventually pay for itself, even if demand for the boat docks is currently less than originally expected.
"It's the economy. The marina (on Clearwater Beach) used to have a waiting list, and now we have openings," Wills said. "I think that as soon as things turn around again, the marina will be full and downtown will be full."
Assistant City Manager Rod Irwin said the new owners of the nearby Water's Edge condominium tower plan to use the boat slips to attract buyers to the mostly vacant high-rise.
A California investment company, Concierge Asset Management, has contracted to buy the bankrupt tower and plans to begin marketing its condos at reduced prices. City officials expect the purchase to close in early July.
"They see a real synergy between that building and that marina, in terms of what buyers are going to be looking for," Irwin said. "People will be living there because they want water access."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4160.