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Two submit their designs for Clearwater Beach tower

Bill Baldwin conjured up the idea for a 400-foot tower on Clearwater Beach in his dreams.

"As soon as the commissioners started talking about it, the idea came to me in my sleep," Baldwin said.

Baldwin, president of The Baldwin Group Architects Inc. in Safety Harbor, and Thomas Lambdon, president of Media Innovative Technologies in Pinellas Park, are the only people who responded to a request by the city for groups to submit proposals for an observation deck and restaurant tower. Commissioners decided in June that they wanted to determine the best use for a strip of beachfront property. The deadline for submissions was last Friday.

Last month, Clearwater officials said they envisioned a 300- to 400-foot tower on public land at the base of Pier 60 to be built by private investors. All plans are tentative at this point, but Baldwin's creation is about 400 feet. Lambdon's plan, complete with a lightning post at its peak, would top out at 600 feet.

Lambdon said an upscale restaurant and a $2 charge for a view from the observation deck will offset costs for what he has named the "Pierside Skytower." He estimates the building will cost $12.5-million and would take one year to complete. Lambdon has enlisted the Switzerland-based Intamin Co. to design and build the tower. Its look is similar to that of the CN Tower in Canada, which is one of the tallest buildings in North America.

"This is a tremendous site to capitalize on for the beach area," Lambdon said. "But it needs to be higher than the 300 or 400 feet originally proposed."

A committee of city staff members will review the informal proposals. Then the committee will author a formal request for a proposal to be submitted to the City Commission in November, Assistant City Manager Bill Baker said.

"We had hoped for more than two proposals, but we're glad we got the ones we did," Baker said. "This is a very ambitious project."

Baldwin, who has been in business locally for 11 years, anticipates the tower's costing between $20- and $25-million and said he has several wealthy investors, including a billionaire, backing him.

"I can see this being a prominent landmark. Instead of using the Sunshine Skyway on postcards, they could use the tower," Baldwin said.

Lambdon, a 25-year resident of St. Petersburg, specializes in building laser video discs and CD-ROM computer controlled information systems and has been in business since 1985. He said he also has several wealthy investors behind him, including a "famous" restaurateur he declined to name.

Neither Baldwin nor Lambdon has worked on a project of this scale, but both said they are prepared for the challenge. Baldwin's prior projects include building a $7-million addition to the Paradise Lake Resorts in Land O' Lakes. Lambdon is known for trying to build a motion simulation theater in Madeira Beach and a giant roller coaster off The Pier in St. Petersburg.

"If I didn't believe I could do this, I never would have tried to put this together," Lambdon said. "But no matter which one of us gets it, it's a great project for Clearwater Beach."

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