CLEARWATER — Imagine Clearwater will turn several city parks and an athletic complex into one giant recreation area along the waterfront.
With Imagine Clearwater’s 4,000-seat amphitheater and large lawn for picnicking music fans, a half-mile bluff walk, a waterfront walkway, gardens and nature pond, the city had to come up with a single name for all of it, said Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunbar.
“The property that Imagine Clearwater encompasses already has names — Coachman Park, Memorial Parks 1 and 2, Bayfront Tennis Complex, and the demolished Harborview Center,” Dunbar said. “They will cease to exist under the new plan, so there has to be a single name.”
In short, all the city-owned properties west of North Osceola Avenue between Drew Street and Pierce Street and that encompass the Imagine Clearwater plan must become named under one city entity.
Assistant City Manager Michael Delk and staff threw ideas around and came up with a name in August, Delk said.
Most suggestions were not memorable, Delk said.
“Someone came up with ‘Coachman Waterfront,’ something like that,” he said. “We had other names that didn’t include Coachman. We looked at the names of other public waterfronts around the country. Ultimately, a staff member sent me an article about the role that common areas play for the public and it intrigued me.”
So, the proposed name for the finished, $64 million beautification of the area: Coachman Commons.
The City Council will vote on whether to accept the new name at its Nov. 21 meeting.
In the meantime, Delk likes Coachman Commons, which reapplies the name of one of the city’s pioneering families. In 1912, the S.S. Coachman rowed out into the Gulf to avoid a court injunction. The citizens of Clearwater and the city fathers in St. Petersburg were in a race to construct a courthouse, with the winner being named the county seat of Pinellas County. The injunction would have forced Coachman to stop providing the lumber for the Clearwater effort. Clearwater is now the county seat.
As for the second part of the name, “commons,” that was easy, Delk said.
“The definition of commons as a public park or a public space closely mirrors what we’re trying to accomplish here, which is a renewed civic ownership in the public park and waterfront,” Delk said. “Coachman Commons sends that message of ownership by the public.”
• Speaking of Imagine Clearwater, Delk told the City Council that engineering plans for artistic LED lighting on the Clearwater Memorial Causeway by H.W. Lochner, a Tampa engineering company, could be finished in the spring.
• The city will submit Main Library enhancement drawings to the Department of Planning and Development for building permits in January; construction on that portion of Imagine Clearwater could begin as early as first quarter of 2020.
• As for the larger, overall Coachman Park redevelopment, 30 percent of the plans are submitted and under review by staff and a 3D presentation is being prepared for council review. The 3D presentation will allow viewers to “walk through” the final version of the new park, up walkways and to the overlook to see the park from various viewpoints.
• The city plans two public hearings to provide updates on Imagine Clearwater: on Dec. 3, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Clearwater Main Library, and Dec. 4, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Clearwater Countryside Library at 2642 Sabal Springs Drive. Delk will show the 3D presentation at those meetings.
• A full assessment of current and anticipated use for the park and 4,000-seat amphitheater is underway and will be ready for discussion at the Nov. 21 council meeting.
• The May 2020 deadline is still in effect for Stantec Engineering to complete full plans for the park’s construction, but the company hopes to start utility work before then.
Delk also told the council about possible uses for the North Ward Elementary School at 900 North Fort Harrison Ave., which the city obtained from Pinellas County Schools.
The 1915-era building is on prime real estate overlooking Clearwater Harbor, which makes it a good site for retail, according to architects Delk has met with.
“They have concepts of a facility renovated for mixed-use restaurants, a meeting hall, spaces for artists, or office opportunities,” he said.
Delk said “there appears to be good opportunity to orient the property with more formal, westerly access and usable outdoor public space overlooking the marina area.”
In addition, the site can likely accommodate a small boutique hotel and/or some limited residential use, he told the council. Delk also suggested some renovation and redesign of the school before the city puts it on the commercial market.
Thomas Mahoney, construction specialist with the Clearwater Engineering Department, said the North Marina renewal project is ahead of schedule.
The old parking lot has been resurfaced, and storm water upgrades have been completed, Mahoney told the council. As part of Phase I, all the paving and landscaping around the boat ramp area has been completed, as well as a 12-foot wide, shell-lined promenade around the entire boat ramp area. In addition, improved lighting as well as site furnishings like seating benches have been installed.
Phase 2, which consists of new, raised restrooms and Phase 3, which will see the installation of new, floating docks near the existing boat ramps, are not yet finished.