05/23/15 Real Estate
BELLEAIR — It looks like the set of a horror movie.
In the darkened rooms and corridors of the long-shuttered Belleview Biltmore, the air smells musty. The wooden floors are slanted and warped. Plaster hangs from rotting ceilings. A film of dust covers every surface.
Developer Mike Cheezem, the resort's eighth owner in the last 30 years, steps across a threshold and says, "This was the original lobby. Here's the portion of the building that we're saving."...
05/21/15 Local Government
CLEARWATER — Time may finally be running out for Clearwater's most notorious eyesore.
For nearly nine years, the unfinished Strand condominium tower has remained a barren concrete skeleton. Its 15-story shell looms over the eastern entrance to downtown, visible for at least a mile in every direction.
The city has fined the building's owners $188,500 for code violations since 2013, but that hasn't accomplished much. Officials think the owners have been paying the fines with the help of revenue from cellphone towers perched atop the structure....
DUNEDIN — John Hubbard called himself a tree-hugger, but his devotion ran far deeper than that. As Dunedin's city attorney for nearly four decades, he helmed an evolution that saw the city become a haven of green in a heavily developed county.
Mr. Hubbard, 74, died peacefully Saturday night with his family by his side at his tree-lined home bordering Dunedin's Hammock Park. He had retired in 2011 after 37 years as the city's attorney....
05/13/15 Local Government
DUNEDIN — Should a garage and pay stations replace free downtown parking?
This is one of the most divisive issues the city is grappling with, and officials are getting closer to making some big decisions.
After city commissioners got an update from staffers and residents who are studying downtown's parking problems, they set a date for a public workshop next month. They want feedback from the public one more time before making any major changes....
05/07/15 Local Government
CLEARWATER — The 7-mile stretch of U.S. 19 that runs through Clearwater has changed dramatically in recent years as the road has been reshaped into an elevated highway.
It only makes sense that the business districts alongside the road will have to change with the times, too.
To push that process forward, Clearwater is unveiling new zoning rules for its entire U.S. 19 corridor. Among other things, those rules will allow taller buildings alongside much of the highway....
05/07/15 Local Government
DUNEDIN — At the eastern edge of a lively downtown, across the street from Mease Dunedin Hospital, there's a huge vacant lot that has been empty for years.
It's 4 acres of grass and sand, but it's not a park. It's the site of the long-delayed Gateway project, a continually stalled effort to bring apartments and retail to the east end of Main Street.
Now the developer in charge of the dormant project has brought in some new partners. And that's why officials think the Gateway complex will finally get off the ground....
05/01/15 Local Government
CLEARWATER — What's next for Clearwater?
For the past couple of years, any talk of revitalizing this city's historic core always came back to one question: Was the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, an immensely popular tourist attraction, really going to move downtown?
Now that CMA has decided not to relocate after all, Clearwater leaders are switching gears and thinking about what the city should do instead....
CLEARWATER — In a significant setback for Tampa Bay's third-largest city, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has decided not to move downtown after all.
The small aquarium near Clearwater Beach had proposed relocating to a significantly larger, modern $68 million facility that it intended to build on the bluff overlooking Clearwater Harbor. City officials had hoped the move would help revive Clearwater's sleepy downtown....
04/30/15 Local Government
CLEARWATER — Here's another idea that's being kicked around for moribund downtown Clearwater: Why not turn the center of it into a pedestrian mall?
Downtown leaders have been debating the possibility of blocking off part of Cleveland Street to vehicular traffic. City staffers have been asked to weigh the potential pros and cons of a pedestrian zone. But officials are pouring cold water on the idea, despite the enthusiasm some have for it....
04/26/15 Local Government
All the signs are there. Raucous parties. Strangers who stay up late. Cars parked everywhere. An ever-changing rotation of RVs with out-of-state license plates. Beer cans. Wedding tents. Different faces every week.
Residents of Pinellas County's beach neighborhoods say they're noticing more and more homes being illegally rented to tourists for a week at a time, or even on a nightly basis....
04/24/15 Local Government
CLEARWATER — For years, officials have acknowledged the need for new way-finding signs to guide drivers to destinations along the transformed U.S. 19 corridor through Clearwater. Traffic patterns there have dramatically changed with the road's transition to an elevated, limited-access highway.
With the elimination of some traffic lights and turn lanes, it's not as simple as it used to be to get to some locations alongside U.S. 19. The stakes are high for businesses that have lost direct access to the busy road. They want to make sure that motorists can find them....
The city of Largo has a dignified-looking veterans memorial in one of its parks. So does Dunedin. The same goes for Oldsmar. But up until now, a veterans memorial in Clearwater's Crest Lake Park has existed only as a idea in an artist's rendering.
That's about to change. A Tampa Bay veterans group has reached a crucial milestone in its quest to build a memorial plaza in the park's southeast corner, to be visible from passing traffic on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. Construction will begin in about a month and should be complete by Veterans Day in November....
04/09/15 Special Topics
When two police officers in West Allis, Wis., stopped the man who was walking around the neighborhood — surveying one resident's yard, peering through another home's front door, looking to neighbors like a drug dealer — he told them only part of the truth.
Dwayne S. Powell said he was looking around for a house to buy.
He had a fake Florida driver's license, a large knife in his front pocket and a black SUV loaded with so many weapons and other belongings that police towed it to their storage garage. They counted two rifles, four handguns, a homemade silencer, a brown leather whip and 2,000 rounds of ammunition, some of them already loaded into magazines....
04/09/15 Local Government
CLEARWATER — Spring break crowds are still flocking to Clearwater Beach. Bands at beach bars are playing classic rock and reggae. And virtually no one there is happy with Clearwater's noise ordinance.
Beach businesses that feature outdoor entertainment feel like they're being picked on. Beach residents who don't like the loud music feel like they're helpless to stop it. It's a long-standing problem on a barrier island where visitors party in a bustling tourist district that's alongside residential high-rises and neighborhoods....
04/04/15 Real Estate
He's the most powerful Tampa Bay real estate mogul you've never heard of.
He has quietly built an empire. He owns eight office towers in Clearwater, Tampa and Brandon, as well as 10 mobile home and RV parks in Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough counties. His other parks dot the rest of Florida and Texas.
He has always kept a low profile, but he's made headlines recently. He sold off one of the area's top hotels, Tampa's Westin Harbour Island with its popular restaurant, Jackson's Bistro. He's evicting tenants from a Clearwater trailer park to clear the way for waterfront condos....