CLEARWATER — Work is under way to build 126 boat slips, a promenade, a boardwalk and a fishing pier on Clearwater Bay near Coachman Park.
In March 2007, voters narrowly approved the controversial $12.8 million project, which city officials hope will contribute to a downtown revitalization.
Initial sidewalk and seawall repairs started last week, and concrete for the seawall cap will be poured today.
Critics have voiced concern that too few boaters have shown interest in renting the slips. To date, the city has received full deposits on 23 of them, said Clearwater spokeswoman Joelle Castelli.
"While 23 is not 100 percent occupancy," Castelli said, "there may be people waiting for the pilings to be put in the water and the docks to be in place before they commit."
Vice Mayor Paul Gibson has long opposed the project, fearing that demand for the slips would not materialize.
"I take no solace in the fact that I was right," Gibson said. "I wish that I were wrong."
Gibson added that regardless of his past skepticism, city leaders must now pull together and make the project a success.
City Council member John Doran, a supporter, remains hopeful. When the economy improves and work is further along, Doran envisions a robust marina that will draw visitors to the Cleveland Street District.
"I think more people will be down there because it's fun to look at boats," Doran said.
Once piles are driven, floating docks will be installed. Those docks — 50 feet long and 12 feet wide — have been built and will be moved by barge from Tampa.
The project is to be completed in about six months.
In addition to the slips, the finished project will include free tie-up space for boaters making daytime visits and additional tie-up space for transient boaters that can be rented by the night.
Will Van Sant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4166.