Clearwater Plans New Community For Techies, Artists, Entrepreneurs

A couple of older auto body shops and warehouses are the only signs of life on 6.8 acres of prime real estate just east of downtown Clearwater. But that's about to change. A new residential-retail complex with 257 apartment homes and 10,000-square-feet of retail is scheduled to break ground in August.

A portion of the project, seven ground-floor studio apartments, will be set aside as innovative live-work space for techies, artists and entrepreneurs.

"It's about revitalizing downtown Clearwater with a focus on residential,'' says Geri Lopez, Director of Economic Development and Housing for the City of Clearwater.

Last year, as part of Clearwater's economic development plan, the city conducted an industry cluster analysis that showed an unexpected strength in software and technology.  

"We identified over 22 companies with 800 employees working in the downtown area,'' says Lopez.  

A survey of those employees showed that the majority of them lived in Tampa and commuted to work. They said they weren't opposed to living in Clearwater, but didn't because they couldn't find suitable housing near downtown with the lifestyle amenities they wanted.

"We realized there was both a need and an opportunity here,'' says Lopez.

Finding A Solution

The city responded with an innovative solution, sending out a request for proposal to build a mixed-use development on vacant land bordered by Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, Prospect Avenue, Prospect Lake Park and Cleveland Street. The land is owned by the City of Clearwater and is part of the Community Redevelopment Agency.  

The goal was to create a residential development that would target young professionals, extend the downtown core east and help create support for downtown's growing number of retail, entertainment and recreational activities.

The new five-building complex will have upscale amenities, such as a Wi-Fi cafe, fitness center, pool, dog park area and an outdoor kitchen, says Frank Tetel, VP of Prospect Real Estate, an Orlando-based developer that is partnering with Incore Real Estate in St. Petersburg and Forge Capitol Partners in Tampa on the project.

And those amenities won't end at the complex; they will extend into the surrounding neighborhood, says Tetel.

The complex overlooks the eight-acre Prospect Lake Park and jogging trail. Downtown restaurants and venues are close by. Clearwater Beach and the newly refurbished Beach Walk pedestrian path are just two miles away, easily accessible by bicycle or car.  

In addition, the proposed future Greenlight Pinellas, light rail station is right there in downtown, says Roxanne Amoroso, senior VP of Incore Real Estate.

"We saw a big need to provide market-rate, quality housing in an area with a lot of opportunity that did not have any new development occurring,'' says Amoroso.

Calling Cleveland Street Home

Retail shops in the new complex will front Cleveland, which serves as a main street through the downtown core. Over the past few years, Cleveland Street has received a multimillion dollar facelift with streetscape improvements that include new decorative lighting, landscape islands and design elements, all of which help create the sense of a more cohesive district, as well as foster a more pedestrian-friendly space.

Cleveland Street is also the location of  the Capitol Theatre, an historic Mediterranean Revival theater that underwent a $19.7 million renovation to bring it to its former splendor. It reopened to the public in December of last year. Now managed by Ruth Eckerd Hall, the city's performing arts center, the theater has 750 seats for concerts and a rooftop terrace that overlooks downtown and the Clearwater Memorial Causeway, which connects to the beach.

Similar to the retail businesses, the seven live-work studios in the new complex will face Cleveland Street.  

"The idea is for the individual to be able live in a portion of the space and to use the remainder for commercial use,'' says Amoroso. "It's a concept that's worked well in big cities like Atlanta and can be found locally in places like Dunedin, but it's a first for Clearwater.''

In what could be described as the perfect work from home scenario, Amoroso sees artists using the front portion of the studio for displaying and selling their art, while living and working in the back.

"We're thinking of anyone who wants to have a business and living space combined under one roof,'' says Tetel. "That could be artists, jewelry design, interior designers and even accountants.''

Janan Talafer is a freelance writer in St. Petersburg, FL, who shares a home office with her dog Bear and two cats Milo and Nigel. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Janan Talafer.

Janan Talafer enjoys writing for a diverse group of clients, including print and online publications, nonprofit organizations and public relations agencies. One of the highlights of her writing career was flying with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa FL for a feature about this elite military team. A journalism graduate of Bowling Green State University (OH), Janan’s early career was in health care marketing and public relations for hospitals in Connecticut and Tampa Bay. She is an avid gardener, loves East Coast swing dance and enjoys touring around St. Petersburg on the back of her husband’s scooter.
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