Clearwater sees U.S. 19 as Tampa Bay's next booming corridor

Clearwater officials believe the stretch of U.S. 19 in their city limits can be Tampa Bay’s next thriving mixed-use corridor and a landing spot for corporate expansions and relocations.

For one, it offers the important thing in real estate: location, location, location.

“It is not far from Tampa International Airport and our commerce centers,” says Clearwater Economic Development and Housing Director Denise Sanderson. “It is the main north-south corridor for our labor force traveling through Pinellas County, as well as to the counties north and south of us. It’s just a short jaunt to head over to the airport or downtown Tampa. So, we really are well situated within Pinellas County and that’s what we are trying to bring attention to. I think this is the next great place to be for business. “I like to think of it as the (Tampa) Westshore area as far as the long-term vision for the corridor.”

In collaboration with the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the city’s Economic Development team has launched a new webpage to market the corridor and its redevelopment potential to developers and businesses. The webpage uses digital illustrations and 3D animation to show the mixed-use redevelopment possibilities for four large commercial properties at major intersections: the northeast corner of Gulf to Bay Boulevard and U.S. 19; the southeast corner of Drew Street and US; the northwest corner of Drew Street and U.S. 19; and the northeast corner of Countryside Boulevard and U.S.19 up to State Road 580.

Showing the possibilities

Right now, there are existing commercial and retail developments at each of those locations. Clearwater Economic Development staff and Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council Principal Urban Designer Sarah Vitale, who worked with the city on the project, say the illustrations and webpage are intended to show the type of redevelopment scenarios possible on the corridor and do not reflect actual development plans of the city or the property owners. 

 A video presentation includes 3D animation flythroughs of the development scenarios at each location. 

Between the Phillies’ complex at BayCare Ballpark and Drew Street, the hypothetical development concept includes 502,000 square feet of office in five to 10-story buildings, 35,000 square feet of retail, 152 apartments and several outdoor gathering spaces.This digital illustration shows a hypothetical redevelopment scenario for the area between BayCare Ballpark and Drew Street.

The Countryside Mall property between Countryside Boulevard and State Road 580 is described as one of the largest redevelopment opportunities in the Tampa Bay region with more than 60 acres that can be remade “into a community gathering space to work, live, shop and dine.” There, the city’s hypothetical redevelopment scenario takes place on areas of the massive parking lot and the wing of the mall that is currently anchored by JCPenney, with the rest of the mall remaining in place. The concept includes office space, residential, a wider variety of retail than now on site and parking structures to free up more of the existing parking lot for construction. 

The sites northeast of Gulf to Bay and U.S. 19, and southeast of Drew and 19 are envisioned for office developments to attract business. At Gulf to Bay, the development scenario has a 10-story, 300,000-square-foot office building and a six-story, 150,000-square-foot one with structured parking. Off Drew, the concept has four 10-story office buildings and a total of 940,000 square feet of office space, with multi-story parking structures. 

A solution to a redevelopment dilemma

Clearwater Senior Economic Development Coordinator Phil Kirkpatrick is focused on business recruitment and property redevelopment efforts along the corridor in the city limits, a seven-mile stretch between Belleair Road and Curlew Road. He says the goal is to attract investment and corporate offices that bring in more jobs, specifically more high-paying jobs in areas like IT, fintech, health care and light manufacturing. In the effort, Clearwater faces a familiar challenge in a built-out county.

“The problem for the city of Clearwater, which is common for almost all of Pinellas County, is there is not sufficient inventory of land or buildings to relocate companies or permit them to expand,” Kirkpatrick says. “The solution is to redevelop existing real estate assets along the U.S. 19 corridor to attract that type of corporate presence. Our focus is on sufficient land area to attract impactful employment with designs that would attract employers to come to the city combined with a mix of uses on the site. The U.S. 19 corridor in Clearwater is a reasonable alternative to Westshore in Tampa and is a great location for any corporation whose work extends throughout the metro area. Westshore is a centralized location for the metropolitan statistical area. U.S. 19 at Gulf to Bay is a very close equivalent to Westshore. There is a huge opportunity here.”

Tapping unmet potential

For decades, the U.S. 19 corridor in Clearwater was defined by highway strip development, with large shopping plazas and sprawling parking lots. Sanderson says that type of development is no longer feasible following the state's redesign of the roadway years back that added overpasses to help traffic flow but left many shopping centers along limited access frontage roads.

“It changes what the market can bear out there successfully,” she says. 

Following the state’s construction of overpasses that helped traffic but hampered access and visibility for businesses along the corridor, Clearwater adopted the U.S. 19 Corridor Redevelopment Plan in 2012. That document envisions mixed-use, walkable destinations and major employment centers at major cross streets, with increased urban development densities that could support public transit. More recently, Clearwater has created a single-corridor-wide zoning district for 19, increasing the allowable density and intensity of development, allowing more uses and giving developers flexibility. An illustration of a redevelopment scenario for the Countryside Mall property along US 19.

“It permits both density and intensity of development,” Kirkpatrick says. "In the U.S. 19 Zoning District, the city allows developers to build more improvements per square foot of land than other areas of Clearwater, other than the core downtown. We can pack a lot of employment along U.S. 19, which is a natural place to have it since it is the north-south spine of Pinellas County.”

Sanderson says developers who have a project that aligns with the redevelopment goals of the corridor plan and the criteria of the corridor-wide zoning district will be able to go straight to the building permit process. 

“Following the rezoning of nearly 4000 parcels along U.S. 19 and changing the vision that we have for that entire corridor, this marketing with the new webpage and video is part of a push to really bring some attention to this corridor and help people visualize the opportunity that is out there,” she says.

For more information, go to US 19 Corridor Development Opportunities or contact Phillip Kirkpatrick at 727 562-4054 or [email protected]
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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.