CLEARWATER ― A city evaluation committee this week whittled the five bidders vying to be part of the transformation of the downtown waterfront to a shortlist of two.
The committee will meet again on Wednesday to discuss the two finalists: City Center Development Group, led by Jupiter developer Craig Govan, and SROA Capital, a West Palm Beach private equity firm headed by Benjamin Macfarland.
Proposals submitted by the Church of Scientology, Miami-based Office America Group and Elevate Clearwater, a team of mostly Tampa Bay real estate investors, did not make the shortlist.
But technically, all five are still in contention.
The evaluation committee is expected to make its recommendation in May following interviews with the shortlisted firms and presentations to the City Council. But ultimately the council will have the authority to consider all five proposals and “make a decision based on the best interest of the city, not-withstanding the committee’s recommendations,” according to procurement manager Lori Vogel.
However the details of all five proposals are still confidential until the committee makes a recommendation to the council or May 12, 30 days after bidding closed — whichever comes first. Not even the city council members are privy to the five proposals until they become public.
The city asked for residential, hotel and retail projects on three bluff sites: a 1.4-acre lot at the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue that housed the now-demolished Harborview Center; the 2.6-acre vacant City Hall on Osceola Avenue; and an adjacent 1.2-acre Pierce Street lot.
The three properties border the city-owned 22-acre waterfront where officials expect to break ground in May on Imagine Clearwater, a $64 million park with an amphitheater and canopy over 4,000 seats, lawn, garden, trail, playground and plaza.
Vogel said only City Center Development and SROA Capital’s proposals met minimum requirements outlined in the city’s request for proposals, which put them on the shortlist.
The minimum criteria required the proposals to include 150 housing units; ground floors with retail, civic or cultural uses; designs that meet downtown guidelines; financial offers to buy or lease the properties from the city; and sustainability standards that meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver certification.
Govan’s proposal with City Center Development includes a mix of hotel, retail and dining space along with 200-plus workforce multifamily units across all three sites, according to a statement posted on Facebook by NAK Design Strategies, which worked on the plan.
Representatives with SROA Capital did not respond to requests for comment. But according to its website, the company focuses on self storage facilities and has $1 billion in assets across the United States.
Elevate Clearwater is led by a team of real estate investors, including downtown Clearwater property owner Daniels Ikajevs and Ken Stoltenberg, who has built multiple projects in Tampa’s Channel District. Office America Group lead Ricardo Hernandez said in a previous interview that his proposal targeted just one of the three sites, the 1.2-acre Pierce Street lot.
Until the proposals become public, it’s unclear whether the Church of Scientology wants to build on one, two or all three bluff sites.
The evaluation committee includes city attorney Pam Akin, planning and development director Gina Clayton, assistant city manager Michael Delk, senior economic development coordinator Phil Kirkpatrick, engineering director Tara Kivett and community redevelopment agency director Amanda Thompson.