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A big message touts the city

If at first you don't succeed, try a bigger and better brochure.

Preferably poster-sized, with a color map and aerial photos.

It's one strategy city officials hope will spark developers' interest in Clearwater more than two years after voters crushed an ambitious referendum that had promised to remake downtown.

Put together by the city's Economic Development department with help from Tampa-based Adamson Deal Advertising and Design, the color brochure features demographic information and outlines properties available downtown, on the beach and on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.

City Hall is on the list, as is the Harborview Center and Calvary Baptist Church.

In two weeks, thousands of copies will have landed in mailboxes of developers throughout the country.

"We're sitting on such phenomenal redevelopment sites," Economic Development Director Reg Owens said Monday. "And people don't know about it."

Owens said his office has spent the past several months putting together a targeted mailing list stretching from coast to coast. The idea is to court large-scale developers, both retail and residential, who don't already have a presence in Clearwater.

Counting postage, the brochure is expected to cost $12,000 to $13,000, a figure City Commissioner Frank Hibbard said the city could easily recover in taxes generated by new projects.

"If we get one legitimate developer that comes in and is interested," he said, "I think that was fairly inexpensive advertising."

In marketing the city on a wider stage, officials hope to play on Clearwater's natural resources and its unique downtown filled with older, single-story buildings that could be demolished with relative ease.

Meanwhile, they say, valuable land on the bluff is languishing, tax free, under City Hall and Calvary Baptist.

On the brochure, those parcels and others downtown are highlighted in color photos. "It shows that there are some decent-sized parcels that are available if somebody wants to consolidate," said Hibbard. "It's not too late. That's the message."

City commissioners have agreed they will consider selling City Hall, if and when the right deal comes along. Late last year, church officials confirmed they had an offer on their property, which takes up nearly 4 acres next door.

City officials see that land as the linchpin of downtown redevelopment and hope for a mix of residential, retail and entertainment establishments.

"We need to show ourselves off as a jewel of the west coast," said Vice Mayor Whitney Gray. "I think what we have to work on is finding the right package of incentives that will bring someone in who's willing to be among the pioneers, that can set the tone."

Mayor Brian Aungst said it will take a developer with patience to sell a deal to the public and take a chance on another referendum, which is required whenever Clearwater sells its land to private owners.

"It's not for everybody," he said, adding later: "Will it happen overnight? Probably not. But we're inching our way there."

_ Jennifer Farrell can be reached at 445-4160 or farrellsptimes.com.

The city wants developers to remake downtown and is offering three major parcels as examples of what is available: City Hall, to the left of the tennis courts; Calvary Baptist Church's nearly 4-acre campus, below the tennis courts; and the Harborview Center complex, to the right of Calvary Baptist.

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