November 23, 2014

Downtown Development: 11th Time's the Charm?- Southwest/ Tampa Bay- Aug. 2003

Amy Welch Brill | 8/1/2003
Since the 1960s, Clearwater officials have attempted unsuccessfully to pass 10 downtown redevelopment plans intended to fill vacant storefronts and attract residents at night. In the most recent effort, 58% of Clearwater voters scrapped a proposed $300-million plan in 2000, leading to the ouster of then-City Manager Mike Roberto.

Since then, Clearwater, with a new city manager, mayor and three city commissioners, has moved ahead with some limited development, namely a new bridge connecting downtown to Clearwater Beach. The commission has also developed a new redevelopment plan, a $30-million proposal that will go before voters this spring.

The plan includes reducing Cleveland Street, the main road running through downtown, from four lanes to two and adding brick streetscaping, fountains and landscaping. Planners envision cafes and boutiques where people can mingle outside.

The city also would expand the waterfront Coachman Park from six acres to 18 acres and add a 150-slip marina and a ferry or water taxi service from downtown to the beach. A restaurant and parking garage are also in the plans.

But to spark true changes, officials say, the city needs to attract residential development, which hasn't happened in 75 years.

"No one made an effort to build housing" (in past plans), says Reg Owens, the city's economic development director. "We have an opportunity to make this a livable destination."

To help lure developers, Clearwater is selling City Hall, which sits on prime waterfront property, and Calvary Baptist Church is selling its two buildings on either side of City Hall. The buildings, on an eight-acre stretch of property, could fetch as much as $19 million from a residential developer.

City officials say they've received positive responses after mailing a glossy, poster-sized brochure outlining the proposed changes to 3,000 developers nationwide.

Meanwhile, with the possibility of a changing downtown, some builders have taken notice. Nearly half a block in the downtown core has been sold to a Mexican development company, which plans to build condos, retail and office space and some parking decks. The AmSouth Bank building, on the main intersection downtown, was sold for $8 million to international investors who say they plan to lease office space.

Several of the proposed changes are ideas that residents have seen in past plans. And it's uncertain whether the city can persuade residents, who have had trouble trusting city management, to vote for the latest plan.

It's important to keep trying, says Owens, "If we let downtown die, it will severely impact the quality of life of the city over the next 20 to 30 years."

IN THE NEWS

Charlotte County -- A judge ruled that the county must approve developers' plans for an 82-acre business park and manufacturing plant near Charlotte County Airport. Tremron Miami Inc. and developers of the proposed Charlotte County Park of Commerce claim the county was stonewalling their plans. County officials have been trying to create new zoning and design codes in the area to diversify its tax base, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
FLORIDA?? TRENDLINE?Medical Products
INDUSTRY IMPACTAccording to a study by the University of South Florida's Center for Economic Development Research, Tampa Bay's medical products industry:>? Was a $2.1-billion industry in 2002, with 63% clustered in Pinellas County.>? Accounted for 10,081 jobs, with 70% in Pinellas.>? Produced $575 million in wages in Pinellas.>? Produced more than twice as many patents in the Tampa Bay area in the past 10 years as any other area of the state.

Clearwater -- Tony Markopoulos, a beach hotelier, has proposed an $80-million to $100-million luxury hotel and resort with 250 units on three acres on south Gulfview Boulevard, which runs along Clearwater Beach. Clearwater commissioners are considering the idea, which would replace four existing motels. If approved, construction would begin next spring.

Computer equipment distributor Tech Data (Nasdaq-TECD) cut 200 more jobs, or 7% of its U.S. workforce. The company plans to close its eight training centers -- one in Clearwater -- where it teaches customers about emerging technology.

Fort Myers -- The Transportation Security Administration has selected Southwest Florida International Airport to test and evaluate new and emerging security technology. SFIA was one of 20 airports nationwide picked to test biometric access-control such as iris, face, voice, fingerprint or hand scanning; security-door detection systems; advanced video processing; and digital closed-circuit television monitoring. FindWhat.com (Nasdaq-FWHT), an internet marketing company, bought United Kingdom-based Espotting Media for about $163 million.

Hernando County -- County commissioners approved financial incentives for luring business. The county will waive building and impact fees for companies that create 10 or more jobs at or above the county's annual average salary of $24,973, among other incentives.

Naples -- A new Haitian television program produced in Naples and broadcast entirely in Creole is gaining popularity. Tele Lakay, meaning "home television," is attracting 10,000 viewers each week, estimates Jean Laguenna, who broadcasts the show from a home studio. Comcast broadcasts the show on channel 80.

The City Council has approved a plan that will allow 118 city-owned acres to be converted into a pedestrian-friendly village. The "Heart of Naples" plan passed with little opposition. Only one commissioner objected, saying she was worried that large developers would push out small-business owners.

Pasco County -- County commissioners have picked a 24-acre site for a county-owned $5.7-million tennis stadium in Dade City, part of which will be on property owned by Saddlebrook Resort. A local family has donated the majority of the land for the stadium, which will be built with tourist tax revenue.

Polk County -- Despite protests from the American Civil Liberties Union, Rev. Mickey Carter of Landmark Baptist Church in Haines City plans to erect "American Heritage Foundation Rock," a stone sculpture featuring a representation of the Ten Commandments as well as moments in the foundation of American law, in front of the Polk County Administration Building. Carter still has to raise $90,000 to complete the rock, which he plans to unveil on Sept. 11.

Tampa -- Odyssey Marine Exploration (OTCBB-OMEX.OB) has formed an exclusive agreement with National Geographic to make a documentary on the exploration of the HMS Sussex, a large English warship that sank in the Mediterranean during a storm in 1694. Financial details were not disclosed.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Sloss Industries, a subsidiary of Tampa-based Walter Industries, a maker of coal-based fuel, was hit with the biggest environmental penalty in Alabama history. Sloss had been discharging up to 22 times the legal limit of cyanide per day into Five Mile Creek. The company was fined $675,000, ordered to donate more than 300 acres of company-owned land for recreation and ordered to plant 25,000 trees. Environmental groups have also sued the company.

SRI/Surgical Express (Nasdaq-STRC) has landed a $56-million contract with Rex Healthcare of Raleigh, N.C. SRI will provide medical supplies used for surgeries, including surgical instruments, and process all surgical instruments for the 394-bed acute care hospital.

Sykes Enterprises (Nasdaq-SYKE) announced plans to close a call center in Kentucky employing almost 400. The company has been expanding overseas, where labor is cheaper.

Education
NEW MEDICAL SCHOOL

SARASOTA/MANATEE -- Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pa., is opening a branch in Lakewood Ranch, a 7,000-acre master planned community on the Sarasota/Manatee county line. The medical school, set to open by September 2004 with 150 students, will eventually cap enrollment at 600.

Lake Erie College President John M. Ferretti predicts that the 100,000-sq.-ft. campus will generate more than $30 million annually in the area through spending by faculty, staff and students.

Local hospitals, including one being built at Lakewood Ranch, have agreed to offer medical internships to students.

Marketing
PUMPING CITRUS

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John Gruden has become the new spokesman for the Florida Citrus Department's "Citrus Matters" campaign, an effort to get Floridians to buy more Florida-grown fruit. Gruden and the Bucs will get $4.2 million over five years.

Tags: Southwest, Tampa Bay

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