Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

With demolition of Economy Inn, Clearwater hopes to kick off new era

CLEARWATER — In one way, the downward swipe of the backhoe Thursday morning ended an era.

In another, it created a new beginning.

City officials and community activists joined in a collective cheer at exactly 10:18 a.m. when demolition of the notorious Economy Inn and adjacent blighted buildings got under way on Cleveland Street.

"We will knock it down, then we'll build something great," said Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard.

The city is demolishing the motel, which has long been a thorn in the sides of residents and police. Residents said they are thrilled to see the one-story motel, known as an open-air drug market and a haven for prostitutes and pimps, gone for good.

The Police Department responded to more than 400 calls for service at the Economy Inn last year, according to city officials. The motel, with its peeling roof shingles, also was the subject of at least two dozen city code cases since 2004 over issues such as mold, broken windows and inoperable vehicles.

Maryce Garber, president of the East Gateway Business and Neighbors Association, said she has witnessed the decline of the area east of downtown. Criminal activity and lewdness got so bad, Garber said, that she quit entertaining in her nearby home out of embarrassment about what her guests might see.

Garber said she is looking forward to the rebirth of the East Gateway area, which is bounded by Drew Street to the north, Highland Avenue to the east, Missouri Avenue on the west and Court Street to the south.

Garber said the demolition, which is still in progress, "did my heart good."

She said she would like to see the spot become home to a destination attraction, perhaps a museum, that will draw people into the area and restore it as a gateway to downtown and the beach like it once was.

The city purchased the motel and surrounding buildings — including a Mexican restaurant, the old Royal Palm Motel, a single-family home and two duplexes — in December for about $1.7 million. Altogether, the plots make up a 2.2-acre parcel that city leaders hope to market to a developer.

In March, the city began seeking proposals for a firm to create a "neighborhood vision plan" for the area. That process is scheduled to begin this summer.

Gabrielle Carelli Glatt, daughter of the couple who owned the Royal Palm Motel from 1950 to 1997, said the moment was "bittersweet."

Several people at Thursday's ceremony said the Royal Palm was once an immaculate facility and a vibrant spot. It had a piano bar that drew working professionals and public officials from the downtown courthouse.

Those days may be over, but it's the prospect of what's to come that had Glatt and her family members looking toward the future on Thursday.

"Clearwater really needs it," Glatt said. "For progress, you need to move on."

With demolition of Economy Inn, Clearwater hopes to kick off new era 04/28/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 29, 2011 10:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rose McGowan will replace Val Kilmer at Tampa Bay Comic Con


    Well, that was fast. Less than a day after announcing that one-time Batman Val Kilmer canceled his appearance at Tampa Bay Comic Con, organizers say actress Rose McGowan will take his place at the geek-tastic event running Friday to Sunday at the Tampa Convention center.

    Rose McGowan and her then-husband Davey Detail in 2013.
  2. Bradenton museum where Snooty the manatee drowned reopens to public (w/video)


    BRADENTON — A Florida museum where a 69-year-old manatee got trapped in a maintenance tube and drowned has reopened to the public.

    Four-year-old Katie Blair pays her respects to Snooty at a makeshift memorial in front of the museum on Sunday. Katie and her family has visited the aquarium to see Snooty four times this year. 
Snooty was the world's oldest living manatee in captivity and celebrated his 69th birthday Friday at the aquarium. Aquarium officials described Snooty's death as a tragic accident and is being investigated. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]

  3. HomeTeam 100: Players 21-30


    TAMPA - Jesuit linebacker Anthony Nelson will help lead the Tigers into the 2017 season. Taken 5-17-17 by Scott Purks
  4. For starters: Cobb on the hill against Orioles



    Alex Cobb takes the mound, hoping to duplicate his performance from Friday when he was three outs away from pitching a complete game.
  5. Ros-Lethinen: Trump wrong on transgender ban


    WASHINGTON - Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen criticized President Trump's announced ban on transgender people serving in the military.

    Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.