CLEARWATER – The on-again, off-again plan to build a high-rise parking garage at the Pelican Walk Plaza shopping center on Mandalay Avenue in the North Beach business district of Clearwater Beach, took a giant step forward on Aug. 20. By a unanimous vote, the Clearwater City Council gave the green light to the project, which has been under discussion for more than a decade.
The public/private deal calls for Safety Harbor-based Paradise Group LLC to construct a seven-story parking garage on a 0.94-acre parking lot adjacent to the Pelican Walk shopping center. The city would then buy 450 of the structure’s 642 spaces for $11.3 million. Most of those spaces would then be rented to tourists on an hourly basis, although some of them might be leased to nearby businesses for employee parking. The remaining 192 spaces would belong to the Paradise Group to “be apportioned as the developer chooses between leased and hourly parking, subject to a parking management plan acceptable to the City,” according to a staff memo to the Clearwater City Council.
In addition, the 0.94-section of the Pelican Walk property would house 11,482 square feet of retail and service space. The remaining 0.74 acres of the site would continue to house the Pelican Walk shopping center.
At the council meeting, William Day, an opponent of the project, predicted that at more than $25,000 apiece, the city’s parking spaces would be money-losers. But Mike Quillen of the city’s engineering department replied that a study commissioned by the city predicted that the spaces would be profitable.
Two owners of nearby businesses spoke in favor
of the project, and Bob Clifford, speaking for the Jolley Trolley and the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, said “the project is long overdue.”
At an earlier meeting, nearby residents had complained that the garage would block the neighbors’ view of the water. But they abandoned that tactic when City Attorney Pam Akin said that Florida law doesn’t give anybody a perpetual guarantee of a view across another person’s property. Mayor George Cretekos then noted that many of the people complaining about the possibility of losing their view live in high-rise condominium buildings that themselves blocked the neighbors’ views when they were built.
Assistant City Manager Rod Irwin said the city had been looking for a deal that met three criteria: it must be financially fair to the city; it must meet the criteria of the city’s Beach by Design master plan for the redevelopment of Clearwater Beach; and it requires a partner “who will deliver the product.” He added that the Paradise Group meets all three of those criteria.
Councilmember Hoyt Hamilton called the Paradise Group agreement “a deal that is fair to both parties.” In response to opponents who fear that the garage will cause traffic jams in their neighborhood, Hamilton said that “a parking garage does not increase traffic; it gives traffic another place to get off the road.”
“Obviously, some of the neighbors aren’t going to be happy” with the deal, Mayor Cretekos said. “But this is a tourist resort destination area. It has always been that.”