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Make way for beach parking

Clearwater Beach soon will start losing precious public parking spaces as construction begins on the waterfront Beach Walk project.

But a condo developer may have a temporary solution now that his beach project is delayed.

Officials with the proposed Kiran Grand Resort and Spa are talking with Clearwater leaders about creating public parking on part of the planned resort's 2.7-acre site, which is just south of the roundabout.

Kiran developers had planned to begin building on the site this year, but slow advance condo sales and an increase in the price of construction materials and labor has delayed the project until some time next year.

Kirit Shah, a partner in Kiran development, and Assistant City Manager Garry Brumback are ironing out details, including who would manage the parking operation and whether the city would make any money from it. They should know more in the next month or so.

The idea, they say, is to open up enough room on the site for about 100 spaces by January.

"If we can help the city of Clearwater, then we don't mind doing it and being a good citizen," Shah said.

Depending on the day, the city charges between $1 and $1.25 per hour to park along the beach.

But more than 500 of the 750 spots will be eliminated in the next few years as work continues on Beach Walk, which will transform S Gulfview Boulevard into a promenade with walkways, plazas, greenery and fountains.

The city expects most of the eliminated spaces will be replaced when a new Hyatt resort opens on S Gulfview with a parking garage expected to include 400 public spaces. But that could take several years.

In the meantime, the busy tourist season peaks in February when the first parking spaces are eliminated. City leaders say any extra spaces are crucial to keeping visitors and residents happy.

"This would really help get us though spring break and minimize the net loss of parking," Brumback said.

Kiran Grand developers recently gave the city free access to the property for two weeks of parking during the Ironman triathlon.

Tampa entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr. Kiran Patel bought the property in September 2004 for about $40-million. Original plans for the resort called for a $250-million development with 350 condo-hotels and 75 condominiums.

The developers now are considering changes to the project's scope and design. So far, nothing is confirmed.

The development, which will include a fitness center, spa and vaulted ceilings, would replace four small hotels and motels in around the 100 block of S Gulfview.