Friday, September 21, 2018
Politics

Clearwater voters easily pass referendum allowing waterfront redevelopment

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
Dana Young, Janet Cruz spar over guns, schools, environment in crucial Senate race

Dana Young, Janet Cruz spar over guns, schools, environment in crucial Senate race

TAMPA — During a showdown Friday in Florida’s most hotly contested state Senate race, Democratic challenger Janet Cruz launched fireworks at Dana Young over education funding, the environment and guns.Young, the Republican incumbent in District 18, r...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Confederate group banned from Temple Terrace country club, may take legal action

Confederate group banned from Temple Terrace country club, may take legal action

TEMPLE TERRACE — After complaints from city residents, the Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club has notified the City Council that it will not rent space again to the Sons of Confederate Veterans for its annual banquet.The country clubȁ...
Published: 09/20/18
Carlton: Should felons who have done their time get to vote? Citizens of Florida, it’s in your hands

Carlton: Should felons who have done their time get to vote? Citizens of Florida, it’s in your hands

It’s not often that we citizens — busy with work, paying the bills, living our lives — find ourselves with the power to right a fundamental wrong.But here in Florida, we’re about to get that chance.On the November ballot — among all those candidates ...
Published: 09/20/18
Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

Daniel Ruth: City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation

This has to be height of bureaucratic pettiness, especially for a city whose track record in promoting quality public art falls somewhere between stick figures and finger puppets.Richard Gonzmart is a community treasure. As the force behind a number ...
Published: 09/19/18
Romano: Florida’s dangerous prisons costing us more than money

Romano: Florida’s dangerous prisons costing us more than money

Two things you need to know about Florida’s prison budget:1. It was $2.3 billion this year.2. It was still not enough.Kind of staggering when you think of it that way, huh?We keep spending more and more on housing prisoners, and it’s like throwing mo...
Published: 09/18/18
Kavanaugh to testify after denying sexual assault allegations

Kavanaugh to testify after denying sexual assault allegations

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said Monday he was willing to speak to a Senate panel to "refute" an allegation he sexually assaulted a woman while in high school, after his accuser said via her attorney that she was ready to testi...
Published: 09/17/18
California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault

Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in subu...
Published: 09/16/18
Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

Cuban refugee numbers plummet in Tampa area with cuts at Havana embassy

It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. embassy in Havana suspended processing requests from people hoping to leave the island nation as refugees. The reason: Staffing was reduced to a skeleton crew in the wake of mysterious health attacks on em...
Published: 09/17/18
Romano: Rick Scott’s do-it-yourself guide to rigging a Supreme Court

Romano: Rick Scott’s do-it-yourself guide to rigging a Supreme Court

His time in Tallahassee is coming to an end. Eight years of triumph or shambles, depending on your point of view. And yet, Rick Scott’s legacy may not be written until his final minute as governor.For several years, Scott has been plotting a judicial...
Published: 09/15/18
Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattis’ Fate in Doubt

Fraying Ties With Trump Put Mattis’ Fate in Doubt

WASHINGTON D.C.? — Back when their relationship was fresh and new, and President Donald Trump still called his defense secretary "Mad Dog" a nickname Jim Mattis detests ? the wiry retired Marine general often took a dinner break to eat burgers with h...
Published: 09/15/18