CLEARWATER – Clearwater council members have approved a resolution to amend a law that will allow the city to move forward with plans set forth in its downtown master plan.
Leaders unanimously approved a resolution on Sept. 18 during a council meeting at city hall that asks state lawmakers to amend the Special Act of 1925, which will allow the city to relocate a bandshell along the waterfront, as outlined by Imagine Clearwater, a $55-million redevelopment plan that calls for a dramatic redevelopment of an area often identified as one of the city’s least utilized assets.
As the current act reads, the city is prohibited from allowing “carnivals or shows of any character” within a 500-stretch of land that runs north of the Memorial Causeway Bridge. This location was outlined by consultants as an ideal location for a waterfront bandshell.
The bandshell is just one attraction under consideration as city leaders look to the future of downtown.
Imagine Clearwater calls for the creation of a dynamic public waterfront open space that would include a unique destination, a variety of active and passive spaces and year-round community programming.
Fostering an active frame around Coachman Park to attract park users that would include the introduction of new amenities as well increased safety is the second strategy consultants recommended.
Other recommendations in the plan include demolition of the Harborview Center, relocation of city hall and the creation of a waterfront cafe and rooftop event space at the Clearwater Main Library. The plan also calls for incentives to create high- and low-rise mixed-use development that includes rental and retail properties.
Residents will get the chance to voice their opinion on the proposed plan on Nov. 7 when they vote on a referendum that seeks to allow the development of structures and additions near Coachman Park and in the bluffs area. The referendum asks voters to approve the potential construction of playgrounds, sidewalks, trails, restrooms, a boathouse, parking areas, benches and fountains along the downtown waterfront area, specifically between Pierce Street, Drew Street, the bluff and the waterfront.
With Election Day just weeks away, the city has work left to do when it comes to educating the public about the master plan.
A recent survey released by the city shows that more than half of residents had little to no understanding of the plan or the upcoming referendum.
According to the survey, 51 percent of those responding had no familiarity with the plan; 33 percent had heard of it but were not familiar with what it entails and only 16 percent reported a familiar knowledge with it.
Of those familiar with the plan, 47 percent said they strongly supported it, while 45 percent said they somewhat support the plan. Eight percent said they strongly or somewhat oppose the plan.
When it comes to the upcoming referendum, the numbers were even more discouraging for city leaders.
When asked about the likelihood of voting for the referendum, only 41 percent said they were very likely, with another 41 percent saying they would be somewhat likely to vote in favor of it. The remaining 18 percent said they were somewhat or very unlikely to not support the referendum.
The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce has organized a series of public meetings for the community. The final two meetings will be held Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at East Library and Oct. 9 at 6:45 p.m. at Countryside Library.
“The ultimate goal of these meetings is to educate the public about the project,” said Darryl Henderson, Vice President of Public Policy and Economic Development with the chamber. “We’re there to answer the public’s questions.”
Henderson said the chamber is a proponent of the plan because it will bolster Clearwater’s downtown area.
“We feel the project will jumpstart the revival of downtown Clearwater,” he said.
Public communications director Joelle Castelli said the city will be posting additional information about Imagine Clearwater and the referendum on its website and will be sending out a mailer to registered voters in the coming weeks.