Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Politics

Clearwater voters easily pass referendum allowing waterfront redevelopment

RECOMMENDED READING


CLEARWATER — Voters in Tuesday’s election overwhelmingly agreed to amend the City Charter and allow construction along the downtown waterfront, effectively greenlighting the city’s $55 million Imagine Clearwater redevelopment plan.

The referendum passed 75.8 percent in favor out of 15,109 votes, according to unofficial results.

"This was a grassroots effort," Mayor George Cretekos said. "I’m overwhelmed by the support. It shows people care about Clearwater and are supportive of our plan to make the downtown, Coachman Park area everybody’s second neighborhood."

Imagine Clearwater calls for reshaping Coachman Park and the waterfront to have more walkable access, gardens, a larger concert green, a gateway plaza and a winding Bluff walk with terraces, paths and views of the Intracoastal. Because the City Charter prohibited anything but open space from the Bluff to the water, most of the plan hinged on voters passing the referendum.

The plan is the city’s latest effort to revive the depressed downtown, which has struggled for decades to attract businesses, residents and daily foot traffic.

The redevelopment area covers 66 acres with the marina to the west, Osceola Avenue to the east, Drew Street to the north and Court Street to the south. The idea is the vibrance will encourage businesses to invest in empty storefronts and bring residential projects to the adjacent downtown core.

The city began negotiations last month with Stantec Consulting of Tampa to develop the design of Imagine Clearwater. The design phase could take up to a year, and construction is planned to begin early 2019.

Brian Aungst Jr., Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce vice chair of government affairs, said now that the citizens have given a vote of confidence, it is the city’s job to follow through with aggressive recruitment of residential projects to spur economic growth.

He pointed to the massively successful efforts of St. Petersburg in the early 2000s, which brought condos and apartments to Beach Drive and fed the vibrant restaurant and retail district.

"I think any private sector investor should be very excited about the fact that 75 percent of the citizens of Clearwater have consistently supported public investment in the revitalization of downtown Clearwater," Aungst said. "Downtown Clearwater has a bright future, has a future for everyone, and is open for business."

But the redevelopment has one more logistical hurdle to clear: the Legislature must pass a bill to amend a 1925 law preventing the city from relocating its concert band shell to a restricted area of the waterfront.

The 1925 Special Act, passed when the state granted Clearwater strips of uplands and submerged lands to construct the Causeway Memorial bridge, prohibits any "carnivals or shows of any character" in the 500 feet north of a boundary that runs by the bridge. That 500-foot stretch is nearly the exact location of the proposed site for the new band shell.

The Pinellas County Legislative Delegation on Nov. 1 unanimously approved the proposed bill, sponsored by Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, which will now progress to the 2018 Legislative session.

Clearwater Downtown Partnership executive director Jay Polglaze said with Tuesday’s public buy-in, he doesn’t foresee a problem.

"This is another domino that has fallen in our favor," he said.

ELECTION DAY 2017: Get the latest news and results from the Times Bay Times.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Is ‘Imagine Clearwater’ redevelopment plan downtown’s last hope? (Oct. 26, 2017).

Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

 
Comments
William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

It’s an old joke that Florida’s lieutenant governor, with no duties specified in the state Constitution except to fill in if the governor is disabled or dies, has little to do except monitor the governor’s health. State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, ...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Associated PressPALM BEACH — President Donald Trump started off his first day of Thanksgiving vacation by resuming his taunts of the father of a UCLA basketball player detained for shoplifting in China, saying Wednesday that he was an "ungrateful foo...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

WASHINGTON — Silent for more than a week, President Donald Trump all but endorsed embattled Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, discounting the sexual assault allegations against him and insisting repeatedly that voters must not support Moor...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Published: 11/21/17
Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s tourism chiefs at Visit Florida spend a lot of public money taking trips to exotic places to promote Florida as a top worldwide destination.Four former top-level staff members at the state’s tourism promotion and its c...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching.Lindsay Menz tells CNN that Franken placed his hand on her bottom as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, two years into Fran...
Published: 11/20/17
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17
As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Sunday that the White House is willing to remove a contentious provision taking aim at the Affordable Care Act from the GOP tax overhaul plan if politically necessary, a move ...
Published: 11/19/17

Many Christian conservatives are backing Alabama’s Roy Moore

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama’s Christian conservatives see Roy Moore as their champion. He has battled federal judges and castigated liberals, big government, gun control, Muslims, homosexuality and anything else that doesn’t fit the evangelical mold. ...
Published: 11/19/17
Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

WASHINGTON — It’s been nearly six years since the Senate Ethics Committee conducted a major investigation of a sitting senator. Next year, the panel could be working nonstop, deciding the fate of up to three lawmakers, including two facing allegation...
Published: 11/18/17