Clearwater launches online tool to attract new business investments to U.S. 19 corridor

The City of Clearwater has developed new zoning standards to infuse a seven-mile stretch of the U.S. 19 corridor with commerce and industry, and in concert with these efforts, has launched a comprehensive online tool to make relocation quicker and easier for prospective business owners and developers.

The online interface, designed by GIS WebTech, features a property search tool and user-friendly tabs with an array of associated demographics and layers, which have been customized to help businesses relocate to Clearwater. Through the interface, users can access demographics, workforce, education, zoning, and property data.

Denise Sanderson, Director of Economic Development and Housing at the City of Clearwater, adds that the data available comes from third-party sources to ensure accuracy and impartiality, and she praised GIS WebTech’s maintenance of the site and customer service, citing that agencies across the state and U.S. are using the company’s templates and services.

Due to Homeland Security regulations, some information on infrastructure and property features cannot be made public, but that data can be accessed on the city’s version of the relocation tool.

“We can provide an incredible amount of information about a particular parcel or site through additional GIS layers that we can turn on,” Sanderson says.

In addition, the city’s new, more open requirements have made the relocation process more seamless for potential occupants.

“The new development code allows more uses, simplifies parking requirements, addresses incremental improvement to existing development, and allows significantly more intensity (floor area ratio or FAR) compared to current regulations without also establishing density limitations,” explains Sanderson.

Dubbed “the U.S. 19 Corridor Zoning District Development Standards,” the new rubric allows for more density and intensity, changes implemented to guide future development along U.S. 19 and its major cross-streets.

“So as an example, if you’re a developer for a multifamily residential project, you're not limited to the number of units,” Sanderson says.

The city’s website says the zoning standards will strive to save developers time and money with a process that is streamlined and predictable, allow for residential development at market-driven densities, provide more opportunities to meet market demands and enhance return on investment.

Objectives include increasing development potential by streamlining the approval process of permitting, making a transit system more viable over time through certain site design changes, connecting businesses to customers and increasing accessibility for employees.

For new development in key locations, patterns will be established to increase and enhance business proximity and visibility along U.S. 19, provide for better access for people walking to and between businesses along the corridor, and encourage improved vehicular circulation.

And to assist future occupants, officials from the city, Pinellas County and the state of Florida have collaborated to provide a number of incentive programs to help businesses operating within the Clearwater city limit. Among them are the Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption, the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund, and a High Impact Performance Incentive Grant.

“In the past, we relied on relationships with Realtors, sources like LoopNet to search properties that were available,” says Sanderson. “Pinellas County Economic Development has had a tool on their website for quite some that we utilized though it was not resident on our site. We’d also have to do some digging for information for clients not readily available to them. … Now, we all have it right at our fingertips.”

For more information, including the enhanced web tools and a complete listing of state and local incentives plus details on a number of other business-related resources, visit the City of Clearwater website.
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Read more articles by Julie Garisto.

A graduate of Largo High, USF, and the University of Tampa's Creative Writing MFA program, Julie Garisto grew up in Clearwater and now has a home in the Ocala National Forest. Between writing assignments, she's teaching English courses at Saint Leo University and other colleges. Julie has written arts features in Creative Pinellas' online magazine ArtsCoast Journal, Creative Loafing, Florida travel pieces  (Visit Tampa Bay and Visit Jacksonville), the Cade Museum, and features and reviews in the Tampa Bay Times. Her previous journalistic roles include arts and entertainment editor for Creative Loafing, staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and copy editor for the Weekly Planet. Lately, she's been obsessed with exploring Florida's State Parks, small towns, and natural springs.