Referendum passes overwhelmingly!

On November 7, the voting public made an emphatic statement about the value and importance of downtown Clearwater. The referendum to allow Imagine Clearwater to move forward passed by a mile, 76% to 24%.

Downtown’s revitalization is clearly an indispensable factor in the future of our city! Read all about it in this Tampa Bay Times story.

Without a doubt, the referendum was the critical hurdle for Imagine Clearwater. The project is now officially on the launching pad. The public has spoken.

True, there is still the matter of legislative approval to amend a 1925 law that restricts certain activities along a portion of the waterfront, but this is a mere formality at this point. The city can now proceed with the engineering phase to design and guide the implementation of the Imagine Clearwater Master Plan. More details to come as the city begins the process.

Cheers!

Hope for downtown’s biggest eyesore

We’ve heard some very welcome news.The long-stalled Strand building project at 1100 Cleveland has apparently been resurrected. The owners have received a $22 million loan to complete the development after sitting untouched for years.

Not only will this remove downtown’s biggest visual blight (well, other than the Harborview and its “gray field”), it will add another 132 apartments to our downtown neighborhood.

In our view, apartments are what we need the most right now. Apartments have full-time residents. Condos, on the other hand, are often second homes. For example, in Water’s Edge, only half are full-time residents. Another advantage to apartments-dwellers in urban cores is that they tend to skew younger, leading to more demand for dining and nightlife. And that’s what leads to a vibrant downtown!

Tampa Bay Times recommends Yes vote on waterfront referendum

The Tampa Bay times published on October 5th: “The November referendum allows modest improvements to expand and enhance green space along the waterfront. It enables the Imagine Clearwater plan to keep moving forward, and it is essential to the revitalization of the entire downtown. On the Clearwater referendum question on improvements to the downtown waterfront, the Tampa Bay Times recommends voting Yes.”

A Yes vote is also endorsed by the Downtown Neighborhood Association, the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition, Downtown Partnership, Downtown Merchants Association, Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Imagine Clearwater Stakeholder Committee, just to name a few.

If you are unfamiliar with the details and background of the referendum, the City published an overview, including what a yes vote will permit and what a no vote will prevent. Vote- by-mail ballots are still available through November 1 if you prefer to vote from the comfort of home!

Harborview news!

The Town Hall meeting on September 20 at the library provided a good overview of the Imagine Clearwater master plan and meaning of the upcoming referendum. There was some blockbuster news about the Harborview as well.

Frank Dame from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium announced that CMA has already ceased operations in the Harborview! It is currently being used as a temporary warehouse and is no longer open to the public.

CMA is ready to vacate at any time with only 30 days notice from the city. Frank told everyone that CMA believes in Imagine Clearwater and does not want to stand in its way.

If the referendum passes on November 7, things will start moving fast. An engineering firm will begin a four-month analysis in January to determine exactly how the master plan can physically proceed. There are many things to research and consider, such as underground utilities, environmental impacts, costs, etc.

The city’s goal is that Phase 1 of the master plan (i.e. the “Coachman Park parcel that includes the Harborview and lower parking area but not most of the bluff) is completed within two years. Naturally this will depend on funding, which will be an active topic of conversation once the engineering report is in hand and the scope and projected costs of the project have been determined.

Right now the focus is on the referendum. If it fails, the Imagine Clearwater plans and hopes are out the window because the current city charter does not allow anything in the parcel other than grass, basically. In his opening remarks, Mayor Cretekos referred to Imagine Clearwater as potentially being “our second neighborhood.” He added that the referendum does not commit the city to anything; it just allows for the basic things that public spaces need.

Voter referendum on November 7

Here is what Clearwater voters will be determining on November 7:

REFERENDUM: Shall City Charter Section 2.01(d)(6) be amended as provided in Ordinance 9063-17 to allow construction and maintenance of certain improvements including playgrounds, water features, artwork, a boathouse, Marina office, restrooms, surface parking, roadways, plazas, sidewalks, trails, elevated walkways, boardwalks, benches, picnic tables, water fountains, litter receptacles and similar amenities, to support active and passive uses of the city owned Downtown Waterfront, generally bounded by Pierce St., Drew St., the Bluff and the water.

It’s clear that if the voters reject the proposal, the magnificent plans for the downtown park and waterfront are stopped in their tracks because none of the features listed above are allowed under the current charter restrictions. Here is a link to the plans: Imagine Clearwater

Please register and vote if you’re eligible as a U.S. citizen and Clearwater resident!

The expected voting schedule:

  • Ballots mailed to military & overseas voters on September 22.
  • Ballots mailed to domestic voters on October 3.
  • Early voting from October 28 to November 5.
  • Election Day is November 7.

Last chance to register to vote is October 10. You can request a mail ballot here.

Master Plan accepted unanimously!

Clearwater has a brand new, modern, comprehensive Master Plan for the downtown waterfront and bluff! On February 2, the Imagine Clearwater Stakeholder Committee unanimously endorsed the Plan, and a few hour later the City Council accepted it unanimously.

This news is worth celebrating! It’s definitely a milestone for Clearwater. In this day and age, no city can be considered complete without a vibrant downtown core. A successful and attractive downtown is and always will be essential to a sense of a hometown identity. It’s happening all over the country, including our neighbors (some might even say competitors), St. Pete and Tampa. Now we won’t be left behind.

Kudos to everyone who pushed, prodded and worked on this all along the way. It was years in the making. But this is only the beginning. The next step is for the City to initiate the implementation planning process, which will heavily involve both the public and private sectors along with citizen stakeholder groups. We’ll keep you well-informed here on this site.

Master Plan to be presented to the City Council

The six-month Imagine Clearwater waterfront master planning process, led by HR&A Consultants, is about to conclude with a presentation of the plan to the City Council on Thursday, February 2 at 6pm at City Hall. Please be there if you can, not only to show the Council that residents really care about this project but also to voice your support (or disagreement if you are so inclined).

You can view an advance copy by clicking on “THE PLAN” on the right. It’s a comprehensive and creative document, well worth the time to read. (It’s a large file and may take a bit of time to open.)

In our opinion, HR&A and their associates did a very commendable job capturing and incorporating the most frequently-voiced ideas, suggestions and priorities from the seven community workshops a few months back. Several of us attended every workshop and we were struck by the broad agreement among the participants across the city. The priorities voiced in the Countryside workshop were nearly identical to those in the Downtown workshop.

Once the plan is presented to the Council by HR&A, the city staff will ask the council to accept the proposed master plan and to schedule a workshop to begin the implementation process. We are assured that the public will be given opportunities to provide input throughout.

This is a major milestone for Clearwater. The consultants rightly refer to it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Let’s make the most of it!

Editorial: Trust the process

editorialDear Mayor, City Council and City Leaders,

I was inspired by the book American Icon about Alan Mullaly, considered by many to have been the greatest CEO in American history after resurrecting both Boeing and Ford from ruin. His mantra was “Trust the process”, and he never wavered from it.

On a very much smaller scale, our downtown and waterfront have been in need of resurrection for half a century. A variety of approaches have been attempted. Referendums have come and gone. Ambitious plans have come to naught.

Is this downtown’s last chance for greatness? Many of us feel that we are at a crossroads that is in serious danger of becoming a dead end.

You wisely came up with a process that had never really been fully attempted: engaging the community as a whole in creating downtown’s future — Imagine Clearwater. The goal is to end up with a master plan that makes a successful referendum a foregone conclusion because it enjoys such broad support in the community.

You went about this brilliantly. You started with a blank slate. You looked at national trends. You hired top-notch consultants. You created a diverse stakeholder committee. And you engaged in an unprecedented level of community input. The results are just as you intended. You have a stunning master plan that was instantly embraced and applauded by a wide range of citizens and stakeholders, many of whom had never before seen eye to eye.

For the first time ever, a vision — and a plan — for downtown’s future is getting broad agreement within the community. Please don’t waver now. Trust the process. It’s working.

Sincerely,

Jack Mortimer, President, Downtown Neighborhood Association