Editor's note: On March 9 we asked readers to send us their ideas for what do to with the city-owned Harborview Center property in downtown Clearwater. The city has put out a call to developers who might be interested in redeveloping the site, which is at Osceola Avenue and Cleveland Street, overlooking Coachman Park and Clearwater Harbor. The following are among the ideas readers submitted.
What are your ideas for waterfront land? | Diane Steinle column, March 9
City should build a high-end casino
The city of Clearwater partners with the Seminole tribe and builds a fully operating casino (think Bright House Field) with a ballroom, hotel rooms and conference center. Import some big-time help. Both the Mohegan and Mashantucket tribes are looking to expand.
It would also feature a monorail to the beach and a parking garage under the casino and airline charters from the United States, South America and Europe to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. Restaurants and high-end boutiques affiliated with the casino would be opened along the empty storefronts on the newly renovated Cleveland Street.
Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut grosses $2-billion yearly out in the woods. The state reaps $600-million from casinos.
Clearwater would accomplish two things: Cut the property tax rate in half and counter the influence of a certain religious organization that is suffocating all other forms of development downtown and will continue to do so without a counterbalancing force.
Phillip Marmanillo Clearwater
Use site for shops, parking, hotels
If anyone has been down to Clearwater and seen the Harborview Center, you will agree that it has to go. But the question is what should replace it?
The city needs to have parking on that site. With events happening at Coachman Park, people parking there on work days, and the planned marina, parking is needed for certain. It doesn't need to be any ordinary four-story parking garage; add retail to it.
Another thing that needs to go on that site is a large entertainment plaza. Come on, you have an area right next to the water, soon to become a huge icon for downtown Clearwater. This is needed. Have shops, restaurants and maybe a movie theater/bowling alley on the northwest side and connect it with a parking garage with first-floor retail on the northeast side.
Now that we have retail and parking space out of the way, the last thing needed is a hotel. Five years ago, I would have said condos, but with the housing slump, it would be pretty pointless. But Clearwater needs more hotel rooms.
Putting a hotel there will bring a swarm of opportunity to downtown. With the makeover on Cleveland Street and with guests coming every day to visit the beaches, you can't say that this isn't needed.
The whole thing is easy, just think! You can't run before you can walk, so the city shouldn't try to. Just sit there and think, "What would be best for Clearwater?"
New Port Richey
Turn structure into a 'rehab hotel'
It doesn't take a developer or rocket scientist to figure out what to do with the Harborview Center.
What's the reason that no one is coming downtown? Maybe they are not coming because they have nowhere in the immediate area to stay — unless their last name happens to be Travolta. You get the idea.
Now, what to do? Create what is called a "rehab hotel," small but elegant. Use the existing structure. Put the entrance on the west side at ground level next to the parking with a small reception desk near the escalators.
Put a small but excellent restaurant at ground level where Pickles Plus Too Deli and the open area (where the Christmas in July event is held) are currently located.
Use what is now the Stein Mart area for nicely decorated hotel rooms (perhaps antique-looking rooms) and possibly a meeting room that could be subdivided. Use the existing meeting rooms on the third level for elegant suites with a bar located in the northwest corner room (immediately to the left of the stairs). There would possibly be room for boutique stores on the Stein Mart level, also.
Just remember that it is less expensive to remodel than to tear down and rebuild. Interior walls are nothing to create, and a lot of new interior decorating goes a long way.
People would enjoy staying there for small conventions, and it would truly be a money-maker. Hey, I might even drive down from my darling town to have a drink at a bar with a beautiful view!
Cindy Gamblin, Dunedin
Create a facility with a great view
My ideal is modeled after a motel that I stayed in years ago in Long Beach, Calif. It was very unique and built in and up the bluff from the ocean. The Harborview area could be built the same way, offering different levels for open-air dining, viewing the water, etc.
My concept would be for the first level to be an open parking garage, lushly landscaped with plants and fountains on the side to give it a Mediterranean feel.
The second level could be several nice restaurants, all opening onto a huge rooftop courtyard shared and maintained by the various restaurants.
The third level could be meeting rooms, a ballroom and wedding hall (rented out), and the fourth level either hotel rooms or boutique shops.
I would call this Mediterranean Square and give downtown Clearwater a destination. What do you think?
Donald P. Luchon