CLEARWATER — Downtown investor Daniels Ikajevs asked the city for $1 million on Monday to fund half of the costs to renovate his Cleveland Street storefront and turn the space into an incubator with six breweries and a restaurant.
Ikajevs’ application was the first request heard for the city’s vacancy reduction grant that launched on May 1, part of a $1.5 million program to help bring businesses downtown.
Council members, acting as the community redevelopment agency, granted half of Ikajevs’ request on Monday and gave verbal commitment for the second $500,000 if he can line up tenants. The first $500,000 will cover renovations to make the dilapidated building occupiable. But program criteria required him to come with proof that he had secured reputable tenants in order to receive the second $500,000 portion, which is reserved for buying specialty equipment like machinery and lighting.
“We’re not going to leave you out to dry, we just need you to fill in those blanks,” council member Mark Bunker said.
Ikajevs’ proposed brewery incubator, called Scorpion Hall, would be housed in his building on the 500 block of Cleveland Street, which has been vacant for seven years. The project is aimed at bringing life to the barren 500 block, just as the city is set to break ground next week on the $64 million renovation of the downtown waterfront into a vibrant park, an effort to help revitalize the surrounding area.
Ikajevs seeks to bring five permanent breweries into his 11,000 square foot space and have a sixth station serve as an incubator for a rotating slate of craft brewery entrepreneurs who can learn in the setting, according to his grant application.
Scorpion Hall would also host “a chef-driven restaurant,” to create an attraction like Tampa’s Sparkman’s Wharf and Armature Works. The total $2 million project would be financed through private equity and the $1 million city grant, according to his application.
“This will become an ultimate microbrewery experience and must-see destination in Tampa Bay,” said Ikajevs’ project manager Festus Porbeni, who also serves as a Downtown Development Board member. “It will bring more foot traffic to Cleveland Street and provide a safe, truly urban and community atmosphere for the residents and 4-plus million tourists who visit Clearwater Beach yearly.”
In 2019, Clearwater’s Community Redevelopment Agency awarded Ikajevs $600,000 to build out The Ring, a health-focused co-working space in his One Cleawater Tower. Clearwater has also rented the sixth floor in Ikajev’s tower as a temporary City Hall since August 2018, a five-year lease worth $1.27 million.
All five council members expressed support for Ikajevs’ project and said they’d be willing to grant the second $500,000 portion once he secures tenants.
“I want to see you be successful on this. I love the idea,” council member David Allbritton said.
Ikajevs initially pressed the council that he needed the full $1 million award upfront in order to win over commitments from tenants, a “chicken or the egg” scenario. He also had concerns that by the time he locked in tenants, city officials may have already committed the grant funds to another applicant.
But on Tuesday, Ikajevs said the verbal confirmation he received from the council gave him the assurance needed that funds will be reserved “for this catalyst project.”
Based on initial conversations with breweries, Ikajevs said he is confident his team will be able to meet the requirements to secure the second $500,000 portion before Scorpion Hall breaks ground in the fall.