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Clearwater weighs $1.48 million bridge lighting against Imagine Clearwater amenities

On Thursday the City Council will vote on whether to pay to light up the Memorial Causeway Bridge while also cutting $7 million in amenities from the Imagine Clearwater waterfront park design.
A rendering of the proposed lighting of the Memorial Causeway bridge. [courtesy City of Clearwater]
A rendering of the proposed lighting of the Memorial Causeway bridge. [courtesy City of Clearwater] [ City of Clearwater ]
Published Feb. 16

CLEARWATER — Should the city spend $1.48 million to light up the Memorial Causeway Bridge, adding one more wow-factor to downtown revitalization efforts? Or could that money be used to keep as many amenities as possible in the design of Imagine Clearwater, the city’s signature waterfront park project?

Last fall, city staff estimated they could cut about $9 million in amenities from the park in order to get Imagine Clearwater plan within its $64 million budget.

During a work session on Monday, staff detailed where about $7 million of those savings would come from. Cuts include scaling back the playground, nixing a water feature within the stairway of the civic gateway building, shrinking the splash pad and other changes.

Assistant City Manager Micah Maxwell said the city does not have an identified funding source if the City Council wanted to restore any cuts.

But Mayor Frank Hibbard suggested officials would not have to sacrifice as many features in the park if they postponed the bridge lighting project. Hibbard said the nearly $1.5 budgeted for the bridge lighting would be enough to bring back two park features he wants preserved: the water stairs in the civic gateway and the full scope of the splash pad.

The most recent rendering of the proposed Imagine Clearwater park. This image does not include the retail, residential and hotel projects proposed for three city-owned parcels that border the park.
The most recent rendering of the proposed Imagine Clearwater park. This image does not include the retail, residential and hotel projects proposed for three city-owned parcels that border the park. [ City of Clearwater ]

City Council member Hoyt Hamilton said the bridge lighting should ultimately be a part of Imagine Clearwater, but suggested it could be postponed.

“Being down in the park and at night having that bridge lit up when there’s people in the park I think is going to be a very positive feature, the question is do we want to spend the money right now to do it?” Hamilton said.

Council members on Thursday will vote on the bridge lighting expenditure and give staff direction on the proposed cuts to the park design. The full list of proposed park cuts include:

  • Eliminating bamboo trees and 56 of the 112 jets in the splash pad.
  • Scaling back the playground equipment.
  • Reducing the height and simplifying construction of shade structures and eliminating covered picnic tables.
  • Eliminating space in the first floor of the civic gateway building, which included a box office, pump room, restrooms and first aid room.
  • Eliminating water features in upper plaza and at first stair tiers of the civic gateway.
  • Reducing the size and number of plantings and gardens.
  • Eliminating stairs along the seawall providing direct pedestrian access to Intracoastal waterway.

Stantec consultants expect to deliver final engineering plans at the end of March. Assistant City Manager Michael Delk said final costs are still being determined on about 13 major infrastructure items like the seating for the outdoor covered amphitheater, security cameras, storm water pipe materials, hurricane doors and windows, and other items.

Unlike those infrastructure items, Delk said amenities could always be enhanced in the future, especially with funding from sponsors and naming rights.