We all knew that the consultants hired by the City are among the best in the world at reinventing urban centers, but we still weren’t quite sure what to expect. Would they listen to residents? Would they preserve our waterfront? Well, we shouldn’t have worried. Not only did they listen but they went beyond what most of us could have imagined.
A standing-room only crowd attended the unveiling last Wednesday, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that didn’t like the plan. A lot.
You can view the presentation here: Draft Master Plan – Nov 2016. It takes some careful studying to visually grasp exactly what is being proposed. It’s a very different perspective than the current scene, and it can be difficult to conceive of a downtown without the Harborview, the enormous asphalt parking lot, the fortress-like City Hall, and much of lower Drew and Cleveland streets.
In a nutshell, the plan divides the waterfront into four basic sections: The Cove, The Green, The Garden, and the Gateway. Each has its own purpose, and it’s a very creative design. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
The Green will sit where the current parking lot sprawls. The Garden will sit where Coachman Park currently exists. And the Cove will sit where the tennis courts and scruffy parking lot currently lie below City Hall. The Gateway sits where the current Harborview squats.
Here is a rendering of the view from the bridge. All travelers driving to the beach by car or trolley will see it, and it will be plenty enticing. It’s a far cry from what they see now (mainly asphalt). It’s certainly a new identity, not only for downtown but for the City as a whole. No longer will “mainland Clearwater” appear to be so behind-the-times.
And this image just might be the hardest concept of all to process. It’s the view from the end of the old Harborview parking lot, right in front of what will be the new stage/bandstand. Notice anything missing? Yes! The Harborview and its parking lot are gone, replaced by a covered promenade and an enormous open public green space.
And finally, here is the view of the new Gateway, looking from the street in front of the Capitol Theatre. Wow, what a difference. Downtown will finally be visually connected to the waterfront. The most important corner in downtown Clearwater will be open and inviting.
These are just a very few of the photos in the master plan presentation, so please take a look at the link above to see the complete plan, including its implementation phases. And note the proposed Bluff Walk, which takes advantage of our unique geography.
There isn’t much time to waste. There is a relatively short window of not much more than a month for us to provide feedback to the City about the draft master plan before it’s finalized, likely in February. You can provide your input directly to the City here. And please be sure to tell them what you like about the plan along with any suggestions.
There are four issues that are sure to lead to discussion and perhaps even some controversy: parking, development, noise, and last but definitely not least, financing & implementation. We’ll be addressing the first three issues in upcoming posts. Potential financing and implementation strategies will be addressed by the City once the master plan is finalized, and we have been assured that citizens will be included every step of the way. (We’ll have more details of the timing of the next steps as they emerge.)
City leaders deserve major praise for making this process so inclusive and transparent. Residents have been intimately involved throughout the process. Our input has very clearly influenced the direction of the master plan and the results are extremely positive.