Save the date! New community meeting for Imagine Clearwater

Next stepThe first set of community workshops in early August were a huge success with lots of feedback, record turnouts, and an extremely positive spirit.

The consultants are coming back to town to present (and interpret) the results from the workshops. They need our input in narrowing down the focus for the actual master plan. This is a critical step.

September 12We’re probably belaboring the point, but the next few months are our only opportunity to influence the master plan from the ground up. So please take part in the next community workshop on Monday, September 12, at 6:30p, at the main library.

If you can’t make it on Monday, a second community meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 13, at 6:00p at the Holiday Inn at Gulf-to-Bay and US 19.

Report on the first workshops for Imagine Clearwater

Standing room only 2The first set of community workshops took place on August 1, 2 and 3. They were key steps to crafting a new master plan for the downtown waterfront, park and bluff. So how did they go? Well, we were pleased. More than pleased.

Several of us attended all three community workshops because, honestly, we weren’t sure what to expect. Particularly out in Countryside. Would they support our vision for downtown? Would they even care?

It turns out people do care. A lot. The first workshop at the Holiday Inn drew more than 80 people. As did the second workshop at Countryside Library. And the third at the Main Library drew 120! Standing room only. City officials were mighty impressed.

And even more impressive, everyone was on the same page. The project leader from HR&A (the consultants running the planning process) said afterward, “We were blown away with how positive everyone was. There were no naysayers or ‘just fine like it is’ attitudes.” Apparently Clearwater is proving to be more open and supportive than most places they go. How about that!

Imagine Clearwater scope

Click to enlarge

The workshops started off with a presentation by the consultants about the scope of the project (66 acres covering the Coachman Park & Bluff parcel, the City Hall parcel, and the marina). They also showed numerous examples of popular waterfront parks around the country. Then we broke up into workgroups to brainstorm ideas.

The vast majority of ideas involved the Coachman parcel. Not much was said (yet) about the City Hall parcel. There was no doubt whatsoever that everyone wants a beautiful park with activities, features, and programming. So that’s where the attention went.

Popular ideas included a splash park, interactive fountains & water features, more trees & shade, walking paths, a bicycle path (ideally connected to the Pinellas Trail), steps on the waterfront, creative lighting, dog walk area, botanical gardens, movable seats and tables on the waterfront, pavilion on the bluff, sunset view areas, a large concert area, a smaller stage area for plays & gatherings, and, unanimously, removal of the lower parking lot and Harborview Center.

LibraryIt was also apparent that the majority of the participants prefer open and natural terrain in the park and bluff, which could severely limit new construction. Thus many people urged that portions of the library be re-purposed for cultural and commercial activities given its prime location on the bluff.

Clearwater logoThe clear recurring theme of the park was “water”. (Clear… water… right?) The park design will reflect this. And another theme was “Clearwater’s family room“, meaning that the park should be primarily designed for locals and families, which will in turn likely draw tourists from the beach.

Parking is most definitely a challenge that needs to be solved. But it was virtually unanimous that the Coachman parcel isn’t the place for it. The consultants pointed out that there are 5,000 public parking spaces within a reasonable walk.

Beach traffic was also recognized as a critical problem. But as one downtown resident said: “We don’t want to become the beach’s parking lot.” Creative transit options are being evaluated, including the intriguing Beach Tran, that can be designed so as not to encroach on downtown’s greatest treasure.

The consultants and City were extremely pleased with the community response and the plethora of ideas raised. The next step is for the consultants to distill everything into a cohesive and comprehensive list over the next six weeks. After that, a new round of workshops will test the waters, so to speak, to get a sense of reactions and priorities. After all, nothing meaningful can happen without voter approval in a referendum. And the final step will be crafting an actual master plan that can serve as the basis for the referendum.

We will keep you informed all the way. Stay tuned to this channel!

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First community workshops announced!

Imagine - save dateImagine Clearwater is officially underway.

The City is engaging Clearwater residents to reimagine the future of our downtown waterfront. We all know that any changes to the waterfront, park and bluff will require a voter referendum. Therefore our input right now is crucial to coming up with a master plan that will be acceptable to voters.

The first Community Workshops will be held in three locations around the city. For us, the downtown meeting will be the most convenient. But if you can’t make it on Wednesday, please try to make it to one of the other two meetings.

  • Monday August 16:30p – Holiday Inn Express, 2580 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. (Co-hosted by the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition)
  • Tuesday August 26:30p – Countryside Library, 2642 Sabal Springs Dr.
  • Wednesday August 36:00p – Downtown Main Library (Note the early start time.)

Speak upWe aren’t being asked to “sit quietly and listen”. They want to hear from us. We’re told that the meetings will be interactive and lively. Please take part if you can!

Stakeholder Coalition for Imagine Clearwater

Represent

Though there will be Community Workshops where all citizens can participate in the master planning process, you can also share your thoughts and recommendations directly with members of the Stakeholders Coalition.

What’s unique about this group is that it is primarily composed of residents and neighborhood representatives — further proof that the City considers community input to be the top priority in the process.

The role of the Stakeholder Coalition is to help guide the vision for the waterfront, to provide input throughout the master planning process, and, most important, to help promote public engagement and build support.

The Downtown Neighborhood Association representative can be reached at jack[at]downtownneighborhood.net. Here is the full list of members:

Continue reading

How to stay up to date on Imagine Clearwater

Imagine Clearwater is the City’s visioning and master planning effort for the waterfront and bluff. The five-month process is built around seeking input from the community.

You can read all about it on the City’s website: www.imagineclearwater.com. You can also sign up for email updates here. After you enter your email address, you’ll see a choice of various subscription options. Select “Imagine Clearwater”.Sign up

The master planning process has begun!

Imagine Clearwater

This is what we’ve been waiting for. A new master plan for downtown.

The highly-respected firm HR&A Advisors has been retained by the City to conduct the planning process. They will draw a plan to connect the bluff and waterfront with downtown; create strategies for economic development; identify parking solutions; and design waterfront activities and events to benefit downtown visitors, residents and businesses.

We founded this firm to continue the reinvention of cities into vibrant urban centers. We create and implement strategies to unlock value and establish vital places.” HR&A Advisors, Inc.

Now is timeSounds great to us! Their top priority is engaging the community to re-imagine the future of the downtown waterfront. The process will include multiple Community Workshops to gather citizen input. These meetings are designed to be highly interactive and HR&A especially wants to hear from downtown residents and stakeholders.

Please be ready for a call to action coming soon. We will keep you informed about when and where!

Getting to know City Council Member Bob Cundiff

Bob CundiffWe recently sat down with new City Council Member Bob Cundiff.

Bob has a unique background. He has worked as a classical music radio host, a local TV commercial producer and a pastor. He holds a masters in divinity from Central Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in speech communication. He moved to Clearwater 20 years ago to help launch the communications major at Clearwater Christian College and taught there until it closed last year.

During the campaign, Bob emphasized three major views: 1) the City Council needs to listen more to the citizens they serve, 2) there is too much wasteful spending, and 3) there isn’t enough focus on return on investment and accountability.

He told the Tampa Bay Times: “I hope to be a voice of reason, a voice of common sense and to be able to bring ideas to the table.”

He feels that investing in locals is a good use of public funds as long as residents are deeply involved. He says: “Residents must be stakeholders. Neighborhood groups are so important.”

Bob is a strong advocate for downtown and is in agreement with the ULI study. Before he ran for office, he was taken aback by all the empty storefronts and lots in the downtown area. Bob is pro-small-business and he is looking for better ways to to get them interested in downtown. He also maintains that the City should consider utilizing local talent rather than expensive consultants. He points out that there are a lot of retired professionals in the area (planners, developers, architects, etc.) who have a vested interest in Clearwater and might be happy to donate their time.

He strongly feels that downtown’s revitalization must be a team effort, and he agrees with ULI’s assessment about the importance of partnerships, including the Church of Scientology. He says: “The Church is a big stakeholder and they can be a big help. I wish the rest of downtown’s buildings looked like theirs. They are clearly interested in making Clearwater look better. I applaud it.”

Bob is pro-innovation. His interest is in getting 21st century ideas while learning from the lessons of the past. One of his priorities is solving the traffic problems between downtown and the beach. He feels that the City should think outside the box and consider solutions like SkyTran.

Bob is always interested in hearing from local residents about their ideas and concerns..

Downtown Partnership names new executive director

Jay PolglazeFormer City Councilmember and long-time downtown champion Jay Polglaze has been named the first Executive Director of the Clearwater Downtown Partnership (CDP).

The CDP is a non-profit group of downtown businesses, property owners, developers, citizens and civic groups. Its goal is to promote the revitalization and economic redevelopment of downtown.

Jay is well-known to us and we would be hard-pressed to find a stronger ally in our goals for a vibrant downtown community. He is fully committed to the cause and says: “I firmly believe we are on the verge of a new era of prosperity and growth. I love this community.” We couldn’t agree more!

Jay will be officially welcomed into his new role at the Clearwater Downtown Partnership’s annual Momentum Awards held on Tuesday, May 17th at the Capitol Theatre. It’s open to the public.Check-in is at 5:30pm.

Downtown update

On February 22 we held our first Downtown Neighborhood meeting of the year. As always, there was great participation with nearly 70 attendees.

The purpose of the meeting was to get an update on several key issues and learn more about the proposed City Charter changes in the March voter referendum. (Our voting recommendations are below.)

The highlights:

ULI Implementation

The search for an experienced consultant to guide the master planning process for the waterfront/park/bluff is still underway. Once a consultant is selected, we’re facing up to 30 months for the entire process to be finalized, including the referendum to get public approval on the final master plan. Yup, it’s a long time. But this project is complicated to say the least.

This Year Is Critical

Timing is everythingThe first 12 months of the planning process will be devoted to brainstorming and public input. We will be crucial to the process if we play our cards right, which means that we need to be engaged and informed every step of the way. No problem! That’s why our Association exists.

CMA Plans for Downtown

The notion of permanently expanding into downtown is completely off the table. Instead, CMA is embarking on a $45 million expansion in Island Estates. They plan to break ground in August. If funding goes as planned, it will be a 30-month project.

Harborview

As much as we want the Harborview to disappear tomorrow, we have to face an unpleasant reality. It looks like demolition is at least 30 months away. Why? There are two reasons. First, the City Council is extremely reluctant to make such a drastic change until there a master plan that has been approved by voters in a public referendum. Understandable, given past failures. Second, CMA has no other viable option for their Dolphin Tale exhibit until their new facility is completed.

Look at the Bright Side

Bright sideA lot of good things are happening downtown. Just yesterday there was a major downtown clean-up project involving more than 80 volunteers. The Skyview condo building is progressing fast. The Nolen apartments are springing up even faster. New restaurants have opened and more shops and dining options are being heavily recruited. The Church of Scientology continues its grand renovation projects. In other words, downtown is attracting investment, which will only grow in scope.

So What Can We Do to Speed Things Up?

First and foremost, we must continue to attend and participate in any and all upcoming Neighborhood Association meetings and the City’s Master Planning Forums. Our energy and engagement have a tremendous impact, more than we know.

And we can vote to remove some of the small but frustrating barriers in the City Charter that tie the hands of the City in bringing more activity to the waterfront area.

The Referendum on March 15

Last year a study was done by the 13-member Charter Review Committee and they came up with nearly 20 recommendations. The City Council voted to move forward on a number of them that could have a significant impact on downtown’s plans. The public will vote on these Referendum Questions on March 15.

YesAt our meeting, Brian Aungst, Jr., the Chair of the Charter Review Committee, explained the reasoning behind the proposed changes. He did a great job in clearing up misinformation, answering questions, and putting us at ease that the changes are safe and worthwhile. From all indications, the vast majority of the residents in attendance are planning to vote Yes on the questions, particularly the ones (5, 6 & 7) that directly affect downtown.

If you’re not voting by mail, the polling location on March 15 for downtown residents (districts 511 and 512) is the Main Library.

Please stay tuned to this station for more information!