Clearwater moves forward on downtown apartment complex, public art for Countryside Library

The Nolen, a complex of 257 high-end apartments in downtown Clearwater, is shown in this rendering as it will appear from Cleveland Street. 
The Nolen, a complex of 257 high-end apartments in downtown Clearwater, is shown in this rendering as it will appear from Cleveland Street. 
Published Feb. 12, 2015

CLEARWATER — Breaking ground on a major new apartment complex downtown. Buying a $62,500 terrazzo floor for the new Countryside Library. Trying to get other cities to kick in money for the county's homeless shelter. Changing up the rules for how stores can light their awnings.

Clearwater officials are moving forward on a number of fronts. Here's what the City Council has been up to:

Apartment complex: Developers and city officials broke ground on a long-anticipated complex of 257 high-end apartments that will be built on a nearly 7-acre vacant lot at Prospect Lake on the eastern end of downtown.

The complex will be called the Nolen — named after John Nolen, a landscape architect who was one of the original planners for downtown Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

The market-rate apartments are part of a plan to lure young tech workers who are already working downtown to put down roots and live in the district as well. The complex has been an elusive object of city officials' best-intended plans for 15 years.

The five-building, four-story complex is to open next year with one- and two-bedroom apartments, a fitness center and pool, as well as retail outlets facing Cleveland Street. The city is paying out $700,000 to attract commercial tenants there.

Countryside Library: The new Countryside Library, under construction next to the Countryside Recreation Center, is expected to open later this year.

Penny for Pinellas sales taxes are paying for the $7 million building. Clearwater requires municipal construction projects that cost more than $500,000 to dedicate 1 percent of the budget to public art.

The library's public art will consist of a $62,500 artistic terrazzo floor to be installed in its front lobby and a vestibule. It will be designed by award-winning New Mexico artist Joan Weissman, who specializes in this art form.

"She is renowned for her work. She has worked all over the country," said the city's public art specialist, Christopher Hubbard.

"The terrazzo will last decades if property maintained," council member Hoyt Hamilton said as elected officials approved the selection. "Being right in the center where every person comes in, in a public facility like this library — I think it's a great selection."

County homeless shelter: The mayors of Clearwater and St. Petersburg sent a letter to Pinellas County's other 22 cities, asking them to kick in more money to support Safe Harbor, the sheriff's homeless shelter.

Clearwater and St. Petersburg each contribute $100,000 a year to the shelter, far more than other cities. Many cities don't contribute at all. The mayors' letter got mixed reactions.

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In discussing this, Clearwater council members said the city needed to keep working with county officials to get other cities to contribute, because homelessness is a countywide problem.

"It's a slow process, but we're moving in that direction," council member Jay Polglaze said.

Sign rules: Council member Bill Jonson convinced his fellow elected officials to remove the city's ban on lighted business awnings that double as signs.

For example, he said, the Panda Express across from Clearwater Mall and a Panera Bread on State Road 580 are allowed to have awnings that are lit by outdoor lights.

But a business like the MJ Gift Basket Store at 432 Cleveland St. downtown isn't allowed to light its awnings because the awnings have letters on them.

Once staffers write an updated city ordinance changing this rule, council members will vote on it.

Contact Mike Brassfield at or (727) 445-4151. Follow @MikeBrassfield.