In Clearwater, downtown bluff redevelopment goes to voters in November

Clearwater officials feel they at long last have the right developers and project to transform the bluff on the downtown waterfront. In November, the city voters will weigh in.

A trio of City Council decisions at the August 4 meeting move ahead with a $400 million mixed-use redevelopment project from New York’s Gotham Organization and The DeNunzio Group out of Palm Harbor. 

Along with the Imagine Clearwater project to reconstruct the adjacent Coachman Park with a permanent ampitheater and a substantial addition of park amenities, city officals believe the long-sought bluff redevelopment can breathe new life into downtown, drawing in more residents and visitors.

“The project, along with the newly renovated park, will really be a catalyst for downtown revitalization and hopefully bridge the gap we have long had between the waterfront and the rest of downtown,” Director of Planning and Development Gina Clayton says at the City Council meeting.

Moving the project forward, the City Council approved a legal agreement with the developers detailing both sides' obligations and the terms of sale for the two city-owned bluff properties planned for redevelopment, while scheduling a referendum for the November 8 election for city voters to decide whether to authorize the sale of the two properties for private development.

“Tonight is really momentous on many levels,” Mayor Frank Hibbard says duing the Aug. 4 meeting. “It’s a very big night and it’s a first step towards a much bigger and final and wonderful end. I’ve been looking forward to this for more than 20 years, frankly.”

What goes to the voters? Under the city charter, a referendum is required for the city to sell the old City Hall and the former Haborview Center properties through any manner other than a public auction to the highest bidder. The referendum includes a series of conditions the city has put on the use of the land through a 30-year development agreement, including requirements for retail shops and restaurants open to the general public and apartments for rent to the general public.

Known as “The Bluffs,” the redevelopment proposal from the Gotham Organization and The DeNunzio Group plans a 13-story 158-room hotel with 9,000 square feet of commercial space on the first and second floors on the Harborview site. The 13-story portion of the building with hotel rooms  will be toward Osceola Avenue. Closer to Coachman Park, a sloped lawn would lead up to second-floor rooftop beer garden.

The Harborview property would also have a smaller two-story building with 12,000 square feet of commercial space for retail, food and beverage and cultural uses, with a public plaza between the two buildings.

On the City Hall site, two 27-story residential towers with a total of 500 to 600 apartments are planned with 40,000 square-feet of commercial space at the base of the towers and an urban pocket park facing Osceola Avenue.

The development will also allow for the flow of foot traffic between downtown and Coachman Park and the waterfront and  include a landscaped retail corridor leading to the park, an outdoor public plaza and a beer garden and retail shops facing the park and waterfront.
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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.