1. Opinion

Times recommends: Yes on Clearwater referendum to improve waterfront

HR&A Advisors
Proposed renovations to the downtown waterfront in Clearwater include playgrounds, water features, artwork and restrooms.
HR&A Advisors Proposed renovations to the downtown waterfront in Clearwater include playgrounds, water features, artwork and restrooms.
Published Oct. 5, 2017

In addition to the Penny for Pinellas referendum, Clearwater voters will be asked to amend the city charter to allow modest improvements along the downtown waterfront. This is another key step for the impressive Imagine Clearwater plan to remake the waterfront into an attractive destination with more amenities and plenty of open space. There is no formal opposition, and city voters should approve the referendum.

Last year, Clearwater voters approved three incremental steps toward enhancing the waterfront. Those referendums allow the city to make modest improvements to the small downtown marina, move and expand the band shell in Coachman Park and expand the uses of the city's attractive library on the downtown bluff overlooking the harbor. Now it's time for voters to take the next step.

The amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot would allow improvements on the downtown waterfront such as playgrounds, water features, artwork and restrooms. It also would allow plazas, sidewalks, trails, boardwalks and similar amenities. These would all enhance the waterfront and make it more user-friendly for those attending concerts, families with children and tourists.

Imagine Clearwater is the master plan to revitalize the downtown waterfront that was approved by the City Council in February. It will include a new Coachman Garden with a modern playground near the library, a grand entry at the site of the existing Harborview Center, and the Green that would include a new bandshell where there is now a parking lot. The city is close to selecting a design consultant and expects to get a design completed within six months of the referendum. City officials hope much of the work could be completed within the next three years.

Even after this referendum, there will be more hurdles to jump before the revamped downtown waterfront reaches its full potential. For example, the Florida Legislature needs to approve legislation next spring to remove outdated language from state law that bans carnivals or shows of any kind on the property where the new band shell would be constructed. When redevelopment proposals are ready in the next few years for the Harborview Center and City Hall sites on the bluff above the waterfront, city officials anticipate voters also would be asked to approve those proposals.

Those decisions are all in the future. The November referendum only allows modest improvements to expand and enhance green space along the waterfront. It enables the Imagine Clearwater plan to keep moving forward, and it is essential to the revitalization of the entire downtown. On the Clearwater referendum question on improvements to the downtown waterfront, the Tampa Bay Times recommends voting Yes.