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Clearwater reviews project in effort to lure developers

The 22 acres that the city has compiled in hopes of luring a developer to the area near the City Hall annex is worth $9.6-million, according to an appraisal by a city-hired marketing consultant.

The consultant's letter, which is not as extensive as a full-scale appraisal, is part of a new package that city staff is proposing be sent to developers interested in the East End project.

Commissioners will look at the proposed package at their meeting March 5, City Manager Michael Wright said.

In December, the commission sent the first package that the staff prepared back for more details and clarifications. They worried that the city's expectations were not spelled out and wondered whether developers should be asked to submit plans for a City Hall at the site when the commission had never voted on whether to build a new City Hall.

Tuesday, Wright said his staff had tried to clear up those questions.

Basically, the new package "modifies the language dealing with City Hall," Wright said. "You'll see it says it's not a done deal."

According to a memo from Wright to the commission, the package leaves open the question of the site and size of a City Hall in hopes of getting the best deal possible.

The package mentions that the city has discussed putting a new City Hall in the development, and it tells developers that if they are semifinalists, they'll be asked to describe characteristics, design and schedule for construction of "the proposed retail/municipal complex."

But the letter of appraisal from R.E. Marketing discusses City Hall as a definite part of the development.

"In conjunction with this development, the city of Clearwater will relocate their City Hall as part of the project," the consultant wrote.

Tuesday evening, Wright said that the statement is wrong.

Earlier in the day, during a work session, Wright said he is looking at available office space in the city so that if the annex site is developed he can offer commissioners another option for housing displaced staff.

City officials have been accumulating land near Cleveland Street and Missouri Avenue for years. Last year, they stepped up their pace, spending about $1.5-million and doubling the size of the city's holdings in the area.

They hope to attract a developer to the area and that successful redevelopment would spread west to the traditional downtown core.

The proposed package for developers gives the history of the East End project, outlines consultants' vision of an upscale retail, entertainment and office district, and asks for developers' experience and financial qualifications.

The package does not state outright that the city will not subsidize the East End project, one of the concerns the commission had in December.

According to the package, the city is looking for a developer who "can propose a mutually attractive financial proposal." The package also says the city should be reimbursed "for its land acquisition at a fair market value or provide a return on investment commensurate with the private sector developments return on equity."

The letter of appraisal by R.E. Marketing puts the value of the city's East End land at $10 a square foot.

The consultant's report also describes the city's plans as a "joint venture with Bobby Byrd Realty" to construct a retail/office mall in the next five years.

Wright said the city is not working with Bobby Byrd, who has been acquiring options on land at the east end of downtown for several years now.

Byrd's office said Tuesday night that he was out of town for a couple of days.