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Brainstorming on new waterfront park begins in Safety Harbor

SAFETY HARBOR — Now that its purchase of 13 acres of waterfront land is complete, the city has to figure out what to do with the property.

That process began Wednesday with the first meeting of the 15-member Waterfront Park Steering Committee, a citizens group that will lead the brainstorming.

The property, which borders Old Tampa Bay, is directly north of the city marina and behind the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. The spa sold the land to the city after filing for bankruptcy.

Committee members agreed on a few points Wednesday: that wetlands on the land should be protected, that parking could be a problem, and that whatever is built at the park should complement, not compete with, businesses on nearby Main Street.

"This project should make Main Street better," said committee member Richard Blake, a real estate agent.

Members were concerned that if the new park has popular amenities, there will be a shortage of parking, but a city official didn't consider that an immediate concern.

"There will be opportunities to add parking on the property," said Matt McLachlan, the city's community development director. "How much will be determined by the uses that go on the property. That will all be figured out toward the end of the process."

Committee members talked about various ideas for developing the park, including building a beach and creating a walking path through the wetland areas.

The brainstorming is limited by restrictions agreed to between city officials and the spa owner when the property was purchased.

On the land between the spa and the water, structures that would attract large crowds, such as an amphitheater or ball field, can't be built. The city can't establish permanent food or beverage facilities there.

And any structure more than 4 feet high that would block spa guests' view of the bay is prohibited without special approval.

One acre of property next to Veteran's Memorial Lane has no such restriction. During Wednesday night's meeting, a splash park for children and retail shops were raised as ideas for that area.

Jonathan Brewer, president of EarthWorks, which specializes in soil remediation and recycling equipment, suggested construction of a parking garage with a restaurant on top.

"I think that parking is going to be a key issue," he said. "We would love to see a destination restaurant like the Columbia or Ceviche that would really draw people to that location. Even a big Frenchy's, which is all over Clearwater Beach. We're really lacking a good seafood restaurant."

The public is encouraged to submit ideas through the city website: A community survey will be conducted around mid July.

The Waterfront Park Steering Committee will meet once more before holding public workshops. Those dates will be released later.

A park development plan is expected to be presented to the City Commission by October.

Funding for park development in the proposed 2012-2013 budget is $216,600 from the city's Community Redevelopment Area fund and $250,000 from the Penny for Pinellas tax. The city also will seek state grants.

Diedra Rodriguez can be reached at (727) 445-4154 or To write a letter to the editor, go to