CLEARWATER — Imagine Clearwater took a big step toward reality after the City Council approved a $5.6 million work order for the design, permitting, and construction services for the revitalization of Coachman Park.

The contract with Stantec Engineering includes the drawing of architectural plans for a 4,000-seat covered amphitheater, its backstage structures, a 4-acre green for picnickers to listen to music, improvements to the Clearwater Main Library, and other working parts of Imagine Clearwater.

The Phase 1 work order is a concrete step toward breaking ground on Phase I of Imagine Clearwater.

“Stantec is going to get started on the design construction drawings of the park, with which we can go and pull permits,” said interim Assistant City Manager Michael Delk, who is in charge of shepherding Imagine Clearwater to fruition. “Through this process we’ll glean the final architectural designs over the summer.”

Delk, who meets individually with City Council members to update them on the project, said the public will get a look at the final design of the amphitheater, its backstage and support offices, the covered seating area, the lawn seating area, and Main Library designs sometime in the fall.

“We will let everybody see the plans,” Delk said. “I want to engage the community, that’s a big emphasis. We want to re-engage the community at the 30-60-90 and 95 percent (complete) steps.”

What Stantec will design for city

The concert pavilion and lawn seating are not the only attractions in the proposed overhaul of the 66-acre waterfront, but they are part of Phase 1, which the Stantec contract covers. The architecture as a total package.

Here is a partial list of the structural, mechanical, engineering, and plumbing designs Stantec will provide:

• The Clearwater Main Library renovations. The company will provide $507,500 in architectural and engineering drawings and other services for the library. The $6 million in renovations includes moving the library entrance to the southwest corner to integrate with the Imagine Clearwater Bluff Walk; adding a staircase from the first to the third levels; relocating the gallery to a new enclosed space at the southeast corner of the building; adding collaboration and meeting space; and enclosing the rooftop terrace.

• The stage venue and the covering, with the seat covering area and the back of the house.

• The Civic Gateway, a combination covered bridge and shaded walkway just north of Cleveland Street that leads from Osceola Avenue to the park.

• Bluff Walk south, which traverses the hillside where the Old City Hall still stands. The fate of the building — beyond its demolition — is not yet decided, Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said July 17.

• The green spaces around the amphitheater, included paved areas where crowds will mingle or line up to enter the entertainment venue.

• The seawall/water’s edge where the Intracoastal Waterway laps against Coachman Park.

• The Estuary, a man-made freshwater lake with paths, observation docks, and other features which the city predicts will be “a lush respite for visitors in search of a quiet waterfront experience a short walk from the rest of downtown.”

• The Bluff Walk: An active linear promenade that utilizes Clearwater's unique topography, provides unparalleled views, and stitches together the waterfront and downtown.

• Parking lots, drives, and walkways for the movement of visitors.

Phase 2 work will be approved later

The architectural drawings and services in the June 17 contract don’t include the Bluff Walk North, which is on the north side of the Civic Gateway. Nor does the contract include Coachman Garden, that is to contain a “modern new playground, with play equipment designed in collaboration with local artists.” The garden will be just steps from the Main Library. Those will be tackled in a Phase 2 work order, possibly by the end of the year, Delk said. The council will have to approve that work order, too.

Imagine Clearwater is a multi-year project, designed to take Clearwater into the next century.

Voters approved a referendum in November 2017 that essentially approved the Imagine Clearwater with the construction and maintenance of structures on the waterfront.

Once the city council approves the designs and the city’s Planning and Development Department approves the permits, the building of the amphitheater and other buildings will begin. While Phase 1 is under construction, the council will consider Phase 2 plans and approval.

“Once we get under construction, we’re not going to stop,” said Delk.

Delk also unveiled a plan for the city to pay for the Coachman Park/Imagine Clearwater rejuvenation.

The cost of the park’s rejuvenation — the Estuary, the grassy field and the band shell ($41.4 million) and the back of house and audience cover for more than 4,000 seats ($14 million), as well as the $6.1 million for the Main Library’s renovation and landscaping — are included in the $64.5 million Imagine Clearwater price tag.

Here are the biggest suggested sources of funding, according to the one-page document Delk developed for the council:

• $25.5 million: Available general fund debt service capacity

• $13 million: Penny III and Penny IV funding already allocated in the city’s 2017/2018 budget

• $6.5 million: Additional Penny IV allocation; that’s pending approval of the 2019/2020 budget in the fall.

• $3.2 million: Already allocated in the proposed 2020 budget

• $889,253: Special Development Fund reserves from the prior Harborview Demo project, 2017/2018

• $500,000: Mid-year budget transfer of 2017 general fund reserves

The $25.5 general fund debt service at the top of the list “allows us to fund a loan of up to $25.5 million over 20 years,” Delk told the Beacon. “It does not mean that we have to take all of it” but it is an option.

Other future funding sources include $23.5 million in appraised developable Harborview, old City Hall lot, and Pierce and Osceola street properties. Pinellas County Tourist Development Council Cooperative Funding and reallocation of Penny IV funds could also be applied to Imagine Clearwater costs, according to the funding plan.

Eyeing health of the reserves

The funding document states that the city has spent $2.9 million on Imagine Clearwater so far, which covered the cost of the project’s conceptual design, the demolition of Harborview and other costs.

During the council hearing, City Councilman Jay Polglaze asked if the project would affect future budget reserves.

The city faces big decisions in its 2019/2020 budget, including determining how much it will spend on stadium and facilities improvements to extend the Philadelphia Phillies’ presence in Clearwater for another 25 years. The team and its spring training program are a big source of revenue for the city’s coffers.

Not only that, but the city is looking to increase staff pay. A 2019 salary study recommends a 4 percent pay increase citywide, a hit to the 2019/2020 general fund of $1.6 million.

Cretekos declared the city’s reserves should remain healthy for many years.

“Unless we add another $14 million to the Imagine Clearwater plan, our reserves should be in pretty good shape for the next six or seven years,” Cretekos said.

City council member David Allbritton said he was confident in the Imagine Clearwater funding plan.

“We have an opportunity to pay a lot of it with the real estate we have. This is a big project for this century.”