Part of the downtown waterfront will be getting a facelift while some new residents will enjoy a better view.
The City Council on Thursday agreed to partner with developer Opus South to turn a small wooded area on the bluff into a landscaped park that includes a sculpted path down toward the waterfront.
The small park will border the western edge of Opus' planned 25-story, 157-unit condominium tower called Water's Edge, which is replacing Calvary Baptist Church.
Opus, which is also considering a deal to purchase the City Hall property to the south as part of an even larger development, will pay for about $100,000 worth of improvements to the city-owned land, said company real estate manager Bill West.
"It will be a definite improvement to what is there now. It's a scruffy area," said City Manager Bill Horne. "And for (spending) nothing, we end up getting a very nice public access and enhancement to that portion of the park."
The trees, mostly palms and oaks, are in poor health, West said. Construction activity would only exacerbate the situation, he said. The city's arborist agrees, said Assistant City Manager Garry Brumback.
"We're just trying to be good neighbors," said West. He provided the city with a conceptual drawing but said the city could decide the specific improvements.
The improvements would also benefit condominium residents, whose view overlooks the park onto Clearwater Harbor. The area now is hardly used and sits between the church and a group of tennis courts.
"I sure like taking money from Opus," said council member Bill Jonson.
Meanwhile, the redevelopment of the church site is moving ahead. Calvary Baptist members moved to a new, larger facility off McMullen-Booth Road in east Clearwater in December, having sold their historic campus to Opus for $15-million.
The old church, including its historic octagonal dome, is being demolished.
Along with 157 condominiums, the 264-foot-tall Water's Edge will include 10,000 square feet of retail space. Foundation work on the tower is expected to begin within two months, West said.
OH, THE IRONY: Council members also acted swiftly Thursday to repeal toll collections along the Clearwater Pass Bridge even though toll collections do not take place on the Clearwater Pass Bridge.
Vehicles have not been charged a $.75 toll for crossing the small span that connects Clearwater Beach and Sand Key since 1995, but the law had remained on the city books.
Council members agreed unanimously Thursday to repeal the outdated ordinance, originally passed in 1980.
"It's good when government eliminates things," said Mayor Frank Hibbard.
FEMA MONEY, FINALLY: City officials also announced that they received $2.1-million in reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for hurricane-related responses from the 2004 hurricane season.
Aaron Sharockman can be reached at (727) 445-4160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.