CLEARWATER – One of the goals set forth by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency for the next year and a half is to see $100 million in downtown investment.
A decent-sized step toward that played out Nov. 16 when CBW Management, a company led by Skyview Tower developer Moises Agami, purchased several properties in the downtown core totaling $16.4 million.
They include 425 and 519 Cleveland St. and three storefronts at 514 Park St.
“Attracting private investment is one of the CRA’s four key strategies over the next 18 months,” said Amanda Thompson, the CRA’s director. “Mr. Agami is a private developer who currently hosts one of downtown’s most successful restaurants, Clear Sky on Cleveland Street. We look forward to working with him to attract new tenants to fill the vacancies in the properties he has recently purchased.”
City leaders, however, have not been informed of Agami’s intent.
“Typically, property owners do not share their plans for their property unless they are requesting grant funds or are about to begin the permitting process,” Thompson said.
The CRA is currently offering incentive programs for property owners and potential tenants, hoping to attract “destination” businesses such as breweries.
“Mr. Agami’s staff is meeting with CRA staff this week to learn more about our food-and-drink grant program for property owners,” Thompson said on Nov. 29. “There have been no further conversations.”
The properties were owned for years by Terry and Anna Tsfatinos. The purchases by Agami represent most of the couple’s downtown inventory.
Agami is a key player with the Church of Scientology, and most of his purchases are near the nine-story glass Atrium at Clearwater building at 601 Cleveland St. that Church leader David Miscavige bought for $13 million early last year, along with other properties, as potentially the start of a downtown retail project. That group also attempted to purchase vacant land adjacent to City Hall, at 301 Pierce St., that was owned by Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The church wanted to develop the parcel into a swimming pool and playground area for guests of its adjacent hotel, The Oak Cove.
Miscavige at that time outlined plans for the City Council that would revitalize downtown’s Cleveland Street by focusing on developing retail businesses, and included the creation of a downtown entertainment center. Miscavige also implied in meetings with city officials that the church would be willing to fund the facade overhaul for the Cleveland Street district in an effort to update old buildings that possess a lot of character. It was contingent on the city backing away from its desire to purchase the vacant land on Pierce Street.
However, the City Council in April of 2017 voted unanimously to purchase the 1.4-acre parcel for $4.25 million, and as a result Miscavige rescinded his plan.
The move by the city gave it a contiguous tract of 2.1 acres of property along the north and south sides of Pierce Street between Osceola Avenue and the waterfront. It’s key real estate in the city’s desire to attract developers for its $50-plus-million Imagine Clearwater plan.
Since then, Agami’s recent purchases are the first in the form of a bundle that could be connected to the Church. Is it a move designed to potentially jumpstart the church’s desire to re-establish a large project?
A request for comment to that question was not returned by Agami.
Said George Cretekos, the city’s mayor, “My hope is that Mr. Agami will work with the city to redevelop these properties into an active retail and commercial area to be used by the entire Clearwater community and its many visitors to the area, as well as those to the Church of Scientology.”