Monday, April 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Capitol Theatre's success just one part of a downtown turnaround

Here's some good news about downtown Clearwater: The Capitol Theatre blew away profit projections in its first quarter as a restored performance venue. And the theater's popularity has generated enough business for shops and restaurants on the same block that the difference between that block and others downtown is now palpable. Clearly this is no time for the city to rest on its laurels.

The 750-seat theater cleared $170,426 after expenses between its soft opening Dec. 18 and the end of March. Officials had projected only around $50,000.

The historic theater on the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue was purchased by the city and renovated, then turned over to Ruth Eckerd Hall to manage. Ruth Eckerd delivered a strong lineup of entertainers during the first quarter, including Jay Leno, ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, comic Sinbad, B.B. King, Art Garfunkel, Amy Grant, Eddie Money and Michael Bolton.

The Capitol had plenty of sellouts in its first quarter, a result of that strong lineup, public curiosity about the restoration project and hunger for downtown entertainment. As city officials had hoped, the Capitol has attracted not just Pinellas residents, but also vacationers from Clearwater Beach, just a short drive away over the Memorial Causeway. Another positive: Theatergoers arrive early or stay late to have dinner or drinks at nearby restaurants.

This good news comes even though the theater is not finished. Frenchy's Rooftop Terrace, bound to be a popular spot on on performance nights, hasn't yet opened.

However, as positive as the first-quarter results are, what is increasingly obvious is that the Capitol alone will not revive all of the downtown Cleveland Street district as some officials had optimistically projected it would. Other blocks are marked by more unoccupied storefronts than occupied ones, and even the ground-floor retail space in the high-rise Water's Edge condominium directly across Osceola Avenue from the Capitol has been able to attract only one business: a gelato shop. The Capitol brings crowds in the evenings, but during the day there is little activity.

At the recent Urban Land Institute presentation on reviving downtown Clearwater, Ruth Eckerd president and CEO Zev Buffman asked the expert panel what the city and his organization can do immediately to increase traffic downtown. One of the answers: Downtown should have lots more events than it does, from major events to small ones, like kite-flying contests and dog walks — anything to demonstrate that residents and visitors will go downtown when there is something there to draw them.

The city has been preoccupied by some big issues that have the potential to create major change downtown, including the proposed Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the search for a downtown parking garage location and planning for a major transportation hub that would include light rail. But with no crystal ball to determine when, or if, those big projects will happen, the city should be thinking outside the box and also recruiting partners to organize a wide variety of activities downtown. The Capitol's success has provided some momentum. It's time to spread the fun beyond that block.

Comments

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18