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Beach parking garage in the works
City and developer reach an accord; traffic flow, other details still to be worked out
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CLEARWATER – Beach by Design, the city’s master redevelopment plan for Clearwater Beach, has long envisioned the parcel behind the Pelican Walk Retail Center on Poinsettia Street as a prime spot for a parking garage that would provide parking spaces for beachgoers in the Mandalay/North Beach area and increase the development potential of the small, waterfront parcels along East Shore Drive by providing off-street parking nearby. On March 20, the Clearwater City Council took a giant step in that direction.

“Negotiations with owners of the subject parcel have occurred periodically since 2002, but due to a variety of economic and business circumstances, failed to produce an agreement to allow construction of the garage,” a staff memo to the council explains. “During that same period, however, the need for parking, from both visitor/beachgoer/employee and East Shore developer standpoints, has continued to increase. The need for a parking structure has become evident, and the strategic location of the Pelican Walk parcel has taken on heightened significance.”

Recently, Safety Harbor-based Paradise Group, LLC, has obtained an option to buy the Pelican Walk Retail Center and a Poinsettia Street lot and has approached city officials about teaming up to build the long-envisioned garage. At its March 20 meeting, the council discussed the matter after hearing input from Michael Quillen of the city’s Engineering Department and from Michael Connor, owner of the Paradise Group.

“We think it would enhance that whole area,” Assistant City Manager Rod Irwin said of the project.

“We’re anticipating six levels above ground,” Quillen said, adding that it would cost relatively little to add two more stories later if they are needed. “The biggest cost would be the initial cost.”

Vice Mayor Paul Gibson had no doubt that the extra stories will be needed, and soon.

“As the Marina District develops, this (six–story garage) isn’t nearly enough parking, not even close,” Gibson said.

But Mayor George Cretekos worried that putting approximately 680 parking spaces in a single location might create traffic jams and other problems. He wondered aloud if dispersing those parking spaces over a wider area might not be a better idea.

“I get nervous when you talk about putting more than 450 parking spaces in one place,” Cretekos said.

Nevertheless, the council moved forward with a letter of intent between Paradise Group and the city.

“Council members have, (over the past few years), indicated to staff the perceived strategic importance of the garage/garage site and urged staff to bring forward for council consideration any viable deal structures that could result in construction of a public parking structure to address the (city’s) needs and objectives,” according to the staff memo.

Under the terms of the letter of intent, Paradise Group would construct the garage and operate it until July 1, 2016, when $9.3 million currently tied up by a previous obligation would become available to the city. At that time, the city would purchase 450 of the spaces at $25,144 each, for a total of $11,314,800. The city would have the option of buying additional spaces for $25,441 apiece.

“Our goal is to get things started in September of this year” so the heavy equipment will be out of the way before spring break begins, Connor told the council.
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