CLEARWATER — Voters on Nov. 8 gave the OK to the most ambitious attempt in decades to revitalize the city’s downtown, approving the sale of two waterfront parcels to developers who plan to build a $400 million project with high-rise apartments, a hotel and retail.
The referendum to sell the city-owned land to New York City-based Gotham Property Acquisitions and The DeNunzio Group of Pinellas County passed with two-thirds of the vote, according to unofficial results.
The City Council, neighborhood leaders, business owners and others who rallied for the referendum faced no organized opposition in their campaign for downtown’s rebirth. The effort comes amid an expanding footprint by the Church of Scientology, as companies tied to the church have purchased at least 160 properties around downtown and kept most of them vacant.
The bluff projects were cast as the necessary catalyst to bring full-time residents and visitors around Imagine Clearwater, the city’s $84 million transformation of the 22-acre waterfront and Coachman Park, where a 4,000-seat covered amphitheater, garden, plaza and green are expected to be completed in June.
“It’s a pretty resounding result,” Mayor Frank Hibbard said. “I would call that a mandate to move forward with a project like this. People want to see downtown turnaround and I think this is the first step toward that, on the heels of Imagine Clearwater, obviously.”
The deal includes selling the 1.3-acre site of the now-demolished Harborview Center at the northwest corner of Osceola Avenue and Cleveland Street and the 2.6-acre vacant City Hall a half-block south to Gotham and DeNunzio for $24.7 million.
Planned for the City Hall site are two 27-story apartment towers with up to 600 units and ground-floor retail. The Harborview plan includes a 13-story, 158-room hotel with a conference center, rooftop bar and a two-story building with commercial space and a beer garden.
The developers must submit a final site plan to the city, secure financing and close on the sale by Dec. 31, 2024, according to the development agreement.