Advisory Services Panel—Downtown Clearwater, Florida

clearwater bridge

Date: June 15-20, 2014

Location: Downtown Clearwater, Florida

Sponsor: City of Clearwater

Subject Area: Downtown Revitalization

Panel Chair: Bill Kistler

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BACKGROUND AND PANEL ASSIGNMENT

Clearwater Florida is a city of 110,000 located on the Gulf of Mexico in the Tampa Bay Region.  In the Spring of 2014 the city sponsored a ULI Advisory Services Panel to provide strategic advice about the revitalization of its downtown. clearwater districts Clearwater faces a classic challenge, one that has been posed to almost every community with a tourism-based economy: the more successful that economy becomes, the easier it is to invest in the tourism areas and the harder it becomes to invest in the rest of the city. The Panel witnessed this process at work in Clearwater, where major capital investments in the past decade have made the Clearwater Beach an astonishingly dynamic place, while at the same time much of the traditional downtown area has struggled for economic investment.  In addition, the presence of the Church of Scientology, a large landowner in the downtown, has periodically been at odds with the city and the business community, or at least that is the perception from an outsider.

SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

In order to build and implement a coherent vision for a unified and successful Clearwater, the panel recommendations the city must address three crucial topics: strategy, communication, and partnerships. These recommendations include:

  • Strategy. Clearwater must bridge the gap between the mainland and the beach by identifying complementary mainland activities that reinforce and build upon its existing tourism base.
  • Communication. Clearwater must begin to actively tell its own story. To date, the city has been defined passively — and, to a large extent, negatively — from the outside. Clearwater must fill the vacuum with its own voice, creating a brand identity that is strong, positive, unapologetic, and inclusive.
  • Partnerships.  The city must begin to forge new relationships among government, the business community, the church of scientology, residents and others  to consider a host of physical and organizational improvements that will attract business and housing to the downtown area.

Among the many other recommendations the panel made, were:

  • clearwater nodes Better understand the micro and macro-economic forces that are influencing the region and the downtown
  • Build off the market forces that drive the tourism economy and determine uses that take advantage of those visitors
  • Consider a variety of new housing options tailored to the neighborhoods that make up the downtown
  • Implements a transportation initiative that better connects neighborhoods in downtown and build an inter-modal transportation hub
  • Establish  a  traditional “Mercado” in the east gateway neighborhood
  • Improve gateways leading to downtown
  • Master plan the “Bluff” to encourage new commercial and residential uses
  • Activate the Coachman Park with uses that draw visitors and residents to the waterfront
  • Organize a working group within city government that focuses on downtown
  • Create a coalition with representation from all civic organizations and single interest groups
  • Work closely with the Church of Scientology to better understand future plans and encourage participation in the master planning process

Additional details about these recommendations can be found in the presentation. A full report is anticipated to be available within 90 days following the initial recommendations.

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