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Clearwater presents plans for boat launch
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Photo by LOGAN MOSBY
Clearwater resident Kurt F. Dawlik takes a photo of plans for the redevelopment of the Seminole boat launch during an informational meeting Jan. 25 at Francis Wilson Playhouse.
CLEARWATER – More than 40 residents gathered last week to hear the city of Clearwater’s plans for the future of the Seminole boat launch and surrounding areas.

The informational meeting, held on Jan. 25 at Francis Wilson Playhouse, was another example of the city’s continued efforts to reach out to the community as it moves forward with a number of master plans in the coming year.

The North Marina Area Master Plan study encompasses 64 acres and is bordered by Clearwater Bay to the west, Pinellas Trail to the east, Cedar Street to the north and Eldridge Street to the south. The plan, which includes the Seminole boat launch, was recommended for redevelopment as a part of the Urban Land Institute’s study of Clearwater, which was published in 2015.

“This is the culmination of an effort that started back probably in 2014, when the city adopted the Land Use Institute’s report for downtown Clearwater and the Clearwater waterfront,” said Planning and Development Director Michael Delk. “There were several things that were in that plan. One is that the city ought to pursue becoming the west coast boating capital – that’s the boating master plan that the city has now finished.

“The other thing was that we study the north marina and create a master plan to revisit this area of our community,” he continued.

The creation of transient boat slips, the reconfiguration and creation of additional parking, and the development of a harborfront park complete with lighting and landscape improvements, are just a few of the ideas city leaders are considering for the area.

Delk said another part of the plan was to “de-industrialize” the area by improving the boat ramp area by introducing a wider range of economic activities that would draw more people into the area.

“We believe this area of our community – Fort Harrison, Seminole, Osceola, with the Francis Wilson Playhouse – is kind of the heart of this area and has an incredible opportunity for the city of Clearwater to create a neighborhood and sense of community,” Delk said.

He said the city has already opened up a range of possibilities from a regulatory standpoint by allowing properties adjacent to the playhouse to be developed into mid-sized hotel or waterfront restaurant.

Representatives with AECOM, the consulting firm tasked with the development of documentation and permitting for the project, were on hand to field questions from curious residents.

“Our first order of business was to maintain the operation of the launches – we’re not proposing any disruption to that – but we want to create more efficiency with the parking,” said AECOM representative Paul Kurtz.

Kurtz said the plan calls for more trailer spaces that are both wider and deeper and will include more parking for the area, at an estimated 50 or more new spaces.

“We are making it, we’re thinking, a lot better for the boat community,” Kurtz said.

Delk said this leg of the master plan is expected to cost in the $1 million to $2 million range.

Clearwater resident and playhouse board member Kurt F. Dawlik said he is excited to see the plans and what they might mean for the future of the area.

“This theater has been near and dear to my heart,” Dawlik said. “I’m very excited to see these plans and the prospect of stuff that might be happening. Our main concern, as a board member, was the parking situation and looking at this right here it kind of nullifies this. It looks beautiful.

“It’s very exciting and I’m looking forward to the future of this area,” he said.

Clearwater City Council member Hoyt Hamilton also was in attendance and he thanked the residents for coming out to take part in the process.

“This is the process we go through and I’m going to make a prediction right now, no matter what the final product becomes … somebody is gonna say they didn’t have the chance to have any input,” Hamilton said. “Somebody’s going to say we made our decision in a vacuum, because that’s the world we live in and operate in.

“But you are proof that that’s not the way it is and I appreciate each and every one of you for coming out,” he continued. “We value your input. This meeting is about you all. This is what makes the process work.”

Logan Mosby is editor of the Clearwater Beacon. She can be reached at lmosby@TBNweekly.com or by calling 727-397-5563, ext. 304.
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