Wednesday, August 15, 2018
News Roundup

Tom Cruise moving to Clearwater? The rumor’s back again

CLEARWATER — Like clockwork, the forever-resurrected scoop that Tom Cruise has finally moved to downtown for good resurfaced in national tabloids last week, with People magazine proclaiming the actor and devout Scientologist has once and for all, and truly, for real this time, settled into his multi-million dollar penthouse near his religion’s mecca.

The Aug. 6 (EXCLUSIVE!) cover story, posted online July 25, cites "sources" who say Cruise has been busy renovating the pad and has been spotted out and about downtown with Scientology staffers.

The story, which has exactly zero new details from headlines printed ad-nauseam over the years that were just as thinly sourced, opened the flood gates.

Blogs, newspapers, TV stations, tabloids and social media feeds across the world lit up.

For anybody who cares about facts, here is what we know for sure. Spoiler alert: It’s not much.

Developer Moises Agami, a Scientologist from Mexico City, began renovating the 10-story Skyview condo tower at the corner of Osceola Avenue and Cleveland Street around 2013. It’s about a block from Scientology’s Flag building, where parishioners from across the world take courses and receive spiritual counseling known as auditing.

The tower was originally proposed as 51 two-bedroom units, but contractors filed paper work with the city in September 2016 to turn the top three floors into a lavish penthouse complete with a gym, theater, pool, garden, game room, four bedrooms and a loft. The permit application also included plans for a private garage with a car elevator on the second floor with a corridor leading to a wing with a flight simulator, office space and sports storage area.

News of the $3 million penthouse renovation sparked international tabloid stories declaring the addition was surely being built for Cruise. City officials could only confirm they heard the same rumors the rest of the world had.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: New penthouse plans in downtown Clearwater fuel Tom Cruise, Scientology rumors

The penthouse was bought by Home Base Five Trust in August 2017 for $9.5 million. The trust is registered to Nancy Chapman, and the deed’s address is her Los Angeles business management firm, which Hollywood Reporter has reported represented Cruise in the past.

But a lot has gone down in Clearwater since penthouse rumors started in 2016.

In March 2017, the Tampa Bay Times broke a story that Scientology leader David Miscavige had purchased six key downtown properties under anonymous LLCs in early 2017 totaling almost $30 million.

Turns out, Miscavige was preparing a retail overhaul for the city’s long struggling downtown. He offered to bankroll a total overhaul of Cleveland Street facades, have his hired consultants recruit luxury retail to empty storefronts and build an entertainment complex in partnership with Tom Cruise.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Scientology plans control of downtown Clearwater for retail makeover

Yep, there was a catch.

In exchange for the makeover, Miscavige asked the city to step aside and allow him to buy a 1.4-acre vacant parcel, adjacent to Scientology’s 13-story Oak Cove religious retreat, to build a swimming pool and other accommodations for parishioners.

But the city wanted it too. The parcel is also across the street from City Hall, and officials wanted it so they could redevelop the two sites into a residential or retail project for the public.

Long story short, Miscavige offered the owner of the vacant lot, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, $15 million — far exceeding the $4.25 million the city offered. But the aquarium chose to sell to the city, its longtime partner, and the council bought the land in April 2017.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Clearwater City Council votes 5-0 to buy downtown parcel coveted by the Church of Scientology

Let’s just say it didn’t go over well.

Miscavige swiftly rescinded his retail offer, and since then, he and his staff has mostly cut communication with city officials.

But the church still owns all that property it bought in 2017 for the retail plan, including the two blocks of vacant land it bought for Cruise’s entertainment complex. Oh, along with its $230 million real estate portfolio in the city.

So here we are.

According to Clearwater senior planner Mark Parry, the Skyview’s 2016 penthouse renovation permit is still active, meaning "they’re still doing work."

So is Cruise really moving to Clearwater?

Not to start another international tabloid rumor, but word on the street here is mixed.

"The latest thing I heard is his unit might be for sale because he’s not coming here anymore," Council member Hoyt Hamilton said of Cruise. "Life is too short for me to even worry about that."

Times senior researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

   
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