As plans to revitalize Clearwater’s waterfront and downtown move forward, focus has also turned toward the city’s Downtown Gateway.
In September, the Clearwater City Council approved conceptual plans for Mercado, a public market that will be developed on a triangular swath of land where Cleveland Street meets Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. The plaza will include space where small businesses and other vendors can take root and an open area for community events, says Chuck Lane, Assistant Director, Economic Development & Housing.
“It’s going to be a space where people can interact with each other,” he says. This ranges from serving as a venue for farmer’s markets, art fairs and other public events to a space where individuals “can just sit down and read a newspaper.”
Mercado will also cater to the largely Hispanic population of the neighborhood, Lane adds. Around one-third of those living in the area are foreign born, “largely Hispanic,” he says. “Mercado is intended to embrace these individuals and be a space where people can feel comfortable in that environment.”
Gabe Parra, community redevelopment manager, says the conversation surrounding this project and property is seven-years in the making.
“We want to create a gathering space where the neighborhood can convene and feel like they belong,” he says.
The project will also build off a streetscape project designed to enhance Cleveland Street between Missouri Avenue and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. These improvements will transform Cleveland Street into a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly thoroughfare as development and interest in downtown Clearwater grows.
Over the past year, the city has worked with the Project for Public Spaces to determine the best look for Mercado, Lane says. The company, which led a feasibility study on the project, created a conceptual rendering of what the plaza might look like.
In “a good faith” move, AIT Consulting, the company behind the streetscape project, took these designs a step further, he adds. The company saw the need for improvements in the Downtown Gateway and added elements to the PPS design, including structures built utilizing storage containers. AIT has not been hired by the city for the project, Lane says.
Lane is working with “key players” in the area, including a number of local businesses, to create the final design for Mercado. He expects these conversations will match much of what was said in the initial public hearings.
The streetscape project will begin by March, he says. After that, construction can move forward on Mercado and he anticipates that this time next year, the community can expect to see the first events organized in the area.
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Tiffany Razano is a Pinellas County-based writer and editor covering the City of Clearwater and other news and features in the Tampa Bay region for 83 Degrees.