CLEARWATER — Since city officials began planning the revitalized downtown waterfront several years ago, assistant city manager Michael Delk said many residents have posed a question: Where are people going to park?
The design of the $84 million Imagine Clearwater project now under construction includes about 260 surface parking spaces intended for the revitalized Coachman Park, Delk said. The city lost about double that by replacing old asphalt lots with green space, he said.
And the renewed waterfront will include an outdoor amphitheater with 4,000 covered seats and lawn space for another 5,000 people, a key to making downtown a regional attraction with regular concerts and events.
To help accommodate parkgoers and the amphitheater, the city on Monday moved forward with purchasing Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church’s parking lot at the corner of Osceola Avenue and Pierce Street in order to build a 550-space parking garage.
The City Council, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, agreed to buy the land for $1.85 million, according to the purchase contract.
“The park demand is probably not going to utilize that garage; it’s going to be mostly used for the venue,” Delk said. “And, hopefully, the more active downtown gets then we would hope it would provide space for downtown too.”
The garage will be five to six stories and include retail space on the ground floor, Delk said. The structure could cost up to $25 million, according to engineering director Tara Kivett.
Along with the garage, Delk said the city expects other existing downtown parking to be utilized for events at the amphitheater. He said the city has been able to accommodate tens of thousands of visitors to events like Jazz Holiday and the July 4 fireworks shows, and the amphitheater will be no different.
“Downtown has absorbed parking for large events for 60 years on public and private property,” Delk said
The Rev. Bob Scott, pastor of Peace Memorial, said his congregation is scheduled to vote on the sale on Sunday, but he described it as a “win-win” for the church and the city. The purchase agreement states that the city will provide Peace at least 125 spaces in the garage for Sunday morning worship and no fewer than 20 spaces for church staff on weekdays.
“Peace has been down here for 130 years and we’ve been a vital part of downtown Clearwater all that time,” Scott said. “We see this as helping the city with its plans to redevelop the waterfront outside our doors, and we see this as helping ensure our long-term viability here.”