1. Florida Politics

Clearwater voters easily pass referendum allowing waterfront redevelopment

Renderings that show proposed renovations to Coachman Park in Clearwater, including a new permanent amphitheater. The renderings come from New York City's HR&A Advisors, brought in by the city to create a master plan for its waterfront, dubbed "Imagine Clearwater." [Courtesy of HR&A Advisors]
Published Nov. 8, 2017

CLEARWATER — Voters in Tuesday's election overwhelmingly agreed to amend the City Charter and allow construction along the downtown waterfront, effectively greenlighting the city's $55 million Imagine Clearwater redevelopment plan.

The referendum passed 75.8 percent in favor out of 15,109 votes, according to unofficial results.

"This was a grassroots effort," Mayor George Cretekos said. "I'm overwhelmed by the support. It shows people care about Clearwater and are supportive of our plan to make the downtown, Coachman Park area everybody's second neighborhood."

Imagine Clearwater calls for reshaping Coachman Park and the waterfront to have more walkable access, gardens, a larger concert green, a gateway plaza and a winding Bluff walk with terraces, paths and views of the Intracoastal. Because the City Charter prohibited anything but open space from the Bluff to the water, most of the plan hinged on voters passing the referendum.

The plan is the city's latest effort to revive the depressed downtown, which has struggled for decades to attract businesses, residents and daily foot traffic.

The redevelopment area covers 66 acres with the marina to the west, Osceola Avenue to the east, Drew Street to the north and Court Street to the south. The idea is the vibrance will encourage businesses to invest in empty storefronts and bring residential projects to the adjacent downtown core.

The city began negotiations last month with Stantec Consulting of Tampa to develop the design of Imagine Clearwater. The design phase could take up to a year, and construction is planned to begin early 2019.

Brian Aungst Jr., Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce vice chair of government affairs, said now that the citizens have given a vote of confidence, it is the city's job to follow through with aggressive recruitment of residential projects to spur economic growth.

He pointed to the massively successful efforts of St. Petersburg in the early 2000s, which brought condos and apartments to Beach Drive and fed the vibrant restaurant and retail district.

"I think any private sector investor should be very excited about the fact that 75 percent of the citizens of Clearwater have consistently supported public investment in the revitalization of downtown Clearwater," Aungst said. "Downtown Clearwater has a bright future, has a future for everyone, and is open for business."

But the redevelopment has one more logistical hurdle to clear: the Legislature must pass a bill to amend a 1925 law preventing the city from relocating its concert band shell to a restricted area of the waterfront.

The 1925 Special Act, passed when the state granted Clearwater strips of uplands and submerged lands to construct the Causeway Memorial bridge, prohibits any "carnivals or shows of any character" in the 500 feet north of a boundary that runs by the bridge. That 500-foot stretch is nearly the exact location of the proposed site for the new band shell.

The Pinellas County Legislative Delegation on Nov. 1 unanimously approved the proposed bill, sponsored by Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, which will now progress to the 2018 Legislative session.

Clearwater Downtown Partnership executive director Jay Polglaze said with Tuesday's public buy-in, he doesn't foresee a problem.

"This is another domino that has fallen in our favor," he said.

ELECTION DAY 2017: Get the latest news and results from the Times Bay Times

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Is 'Imagine Clearwater' redevelopment plan downtown's last hope? (Oct. 26, 2017)

Contact Tracey McManus at or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.


  1. AP file photo of then Gov. and now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott
    DeSantis, Rick Scott and other Republicans have taken a strong stance on Saudi Arabia in recent days. President Donald Trump?
  2. Donald Trump speaks during the Israeli-American Council’s annual summit at The Diplomat Resort & Hotel in Hollywood, Florida on Saturday, December 7, 2019. DANIEL A. VARELA  |  Miami Herald
    The president helps the Republican Party of Florida raise millions and speaks at a national conference on Israeli-American relations.
  3. President Donald J.Trump waves to supporters as he steps out of the Air Force One at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to attend the Republican Party of Florida's Statesman's Dinner at the  JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa and later to the Israeli-American Council Summit 2019 on Saturday. PEDRO PORTAL  |  Miami Herald
    The state party raised $3.5 million at the dinner where the president spoke.
  4. Donald Trump walks with his wife, Melania, after speaking to the press at the Ritz-Carlton August 26, 2012 in Sarasota, Florida. Trump accepted the Statesman of the Year Award at the Sarasota GOP dinner ahead of the Republican Nation Convention in Tampa. (Photo by Edward Linsmier/Getty Images) 150868157 EDWARD LINSMIER  |  Getty Images
    Trump couldn’t get prime stage time at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. So he and the Sarasota Republican Party staged their own event the night before. What happened next changed history.
  5. Paul Congemi, 62, filed paperwork this week for his fourth St. Petersburg mayoral bid. Last election he earned 188 votes. EVE EDELHEIT  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The 2021 primary election is 628 days away.
  6. Mayor Rick Kriseman on Wednesday said he will not allow the Tampa Bay Rays to explore splitting their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal prior to the 2027 expiration of the team's lease of Tropicana Field. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Politicians on both sides of the bay weigh in on St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s decision to cease talks with the team.
  7. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference about the Zika virus, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla.The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting Zika directly to humans. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
    Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he wants to meet with Interior Department officials before green-lighting Katharine MacGregor as the second-highest Interior Department official.
  8. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  9. An example of the type of white railway markings the Florida Department of Transportation plans on installing on the either side of more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state. Florida Department of Transportation
    The department will paint new markings on more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state.
  10. Previous competitions did not round up a lot of the invasive snakes