CLEARWATER, Fla. — It’s a project 30 years in the making. Friday, Clearwater leaders celebrated the official start of an $84 million project to transform the downtown waterfront currently known as Coachman Park into Imagine Clearwater.
For years, business owners like Lena Teixeira have thought, what a waste it was to have a gorgeous waterfront property used as a parking lot at the base of Clearwater Memorial Causeway.
“It’s sinful to waste such a beautiful piece of land. A beautiful waterfront with a bluff. I mean where else does that exist in Florida? To think that’s where we put a parking lot,” she said shaking her head.
Now, after three decades, a few changes in leadership, and a taxpayer-supported referendum; a long-term project is becoming reality.
Frank Hibbard, Clearwater’s Mayor couldn’t be more excited. He says the project is the main reason he ran for office.
“Remember what it used to be like when you were in elementary school, and you got out for Christmas break and you were waiting for Christmas and those days went so slow? This is like that, but ten times better.”
Right now, a team of construction workers is working to transform the 22-acre waterfront into a 4,000 seat amphitheater, walking trails, a playground, splash pad, and gardens. Currently, most of the work is happening underground, but come late November, that construction will start to go vertical and you can watch a live camera feed of the construction in progress at any time online.
Home and business owners tell us it’s a much-needed upgrade to draw people to downtown Clearwater and give visitors another place to explore outside of Clearwater Beach.
“It is easier to go to Safety Harbor or Dunedin, but I think once we get something going people will come down here. It will be very exciting,” said Karen Cunningham, a 40-year Clearwater resident.
Yet, it comes with a couple of obstacles. COVID-19 sent construction costs through the roof. City leaders also added some pricey features, which caused the price tag to skyrocket another $20 million.
“The pandemic has increased prices on construction. Not only products but also labor. The good thing is we now have a guaranteed price so it will not go above the $84 million,” Mayor Hibbard added, explaining that he believes it is worth every dollar because the investment into the city will pay off for future generations.
“I have never felt so hopeful and so excited for the future of this city,” Teixeira added.
Construction will wrap up in June 2023.