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Business Observer Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022 2 weeks ago

Voters approve massive downtown development

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Clearwater will move forward with the sale of two properties to developers looking to transform the city’s downtown.
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

Clearwater residents approved a referendum Tuesday, Nov. 8, that allows the city to sell two properties to developers with plans to bring hundreds of apartments, hotel rooms and retail development to the long-beleaguered downtown.

Voters supported the referendum, which changed the city’s charter to allow for the sale of the city-owned property, by a wide margin, with 66% of voters voting yes.

The two properties are in the heart of the city’s downtown and will be part of a major waterfront development anchored by Imagine Clearwater, an $84 million reimagination of Coachman Park which sits on the water. One of the properties is directly next to the park and the other is about a half mile south. Both will be integrated into the Imagine project.

Combined, the three projects are expected to bring a spark to Clearwater’s downtown that residents have waited for, and have been promised, for decades as other commercial districts up and down the Gulf Coast flourished. Today’s downtown shows some, though not much, life with a few restaurants and retailers, but it is moribund when compared with districts in St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Fort Myers, to name a few.

Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, in August, called the sales agreement and vote to move forward with the referendum “a first step toward a much bigger and final and wonderful end. I’ve been looking forward to this for over 20 years, frankly.”

Clearwater’s City Council agreed in August to sell the two properties for $77.6 million to developers Gotham Properties, from New York, and The DeNunzio Group, from Palm Harbor.

The first of the two projects is on Osceola and Cleveland Streets on the former site of what was Harborview Center. For longtime residents of the city, the property is best remembered as the home of the Maas Brothers department store, which for 30 years, until it closed in 1991, was the center of downtown life in Clearwater.

The plan is for two buildings to go up on that site — a 13-story, 150-room hotel on the north side of the property and a two-story, 12,000-square-foot building for retail on the south. There will be an underground parking component as well.

The city is selling the property for $15.4 million, according to the sales agreement.

The second project is on the site of the former Clearwater City Hall building. It will include a single building with a podium and two 27-story residential towers with up to 600 units as well as 40,000 square feet of retail. The city is selling the property for $9.3 million, according to the sales agreement.

Louis Llovio is the commercial real estate editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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