Clearwater moves forward with ambitious downtown waterfront redesign project

Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard recalls a saying his father often used: Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.
 
Along that line of thinking, the Clearwater City Council has unanimously approved a $20 million increase in the total price tag for the Imagine Clearwater redevelopment of Coachman Park. The higher price tag includes increased costs for construction materials and adds back in features the City Council previously removed as cost-cutting measures.

The total price tag is now $84 million. City officials believe that is an investment that will transform an underused, underdeveloped waterfront park into a regional draw and, along with the planned redevelopment of three properties on the bluff overlooking the park and Clearwater Harbor, finally deliver the activity the city has strived to bring downtown for decades.

“Coachman Park has been underutilized for decades,” Hibbard says. “It’s time to do it and do it right. This is a generational project and we should not compromise on quality. Now, it is basically again what we originally envisioned for the future of the park.”

That vision includes a 4,000-seat covered amphitheater at a concert venue that, with no permanent infrastructure, previously relied on its waterfront location to draw performers and crowds.
  
The larger scope of improvements to the park  will also include a walking trail, lake, garden, a large open lawn, public art installations, a playground and play area for children, splash pads, restrooms, a grand staircase and newly planted landscaping and trees.

“There is going to be something for everyone at this park,” Hibbard says.
 
As the City Council and staff discussed the cost increase at their meeting July 15, Assistant City Manager Michael Delk said the project now reflected the “highest aspirations for achieving the kind of change in our community, the downtown and our waterfront that we believe the 120,000 citizens of our community expect and want to see. This is a paradigm changing redevelopment of our waterfront for the rest of this century.”

During the meeting, Council member Hoyt Hamilton said he expects the investment to pay off in the long run.

“This is the biggest ticket item this city has endeavored to do and I have every confidence in the world it’s going to turn out exactly the way we want it,” Hamilton said. “It’s going to show the results exactly the way we expect it to show.
  
Currently, crews are doing site work and utility work at Coachman Park ahead of the construction of improvements. Hibbard says the construction of those improvements and new facilities should begin in approximately a year. 

For more information, visit Imagine Clearwater.

 

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather, and Florida's wealth of outdoor festivals.
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