CLEARWATER, Fla. — A renaissance; that’s the word some residents in downtown Clearwater are using to describe all the new development coming to their city.
If you stop just about anywhere along downtown Clearwater’s waterfront, you’ll hear the sound of new construction.
Dale Robinson, the owner of Downtown Pizza, is anxious to see all the projects come together.
“I’m excited. Excited to see progress for everything to finally be moving forward,” he explained.
Robinson hopes it will translate into more customers at his pizza shop.
“Before, there wasn’t a lot to do down here. Now, they will have a reason to be here,” he explained.
Construction is underway to convert Coachman Park into Imagine Clearwater, a project with a 4,000-seat bandshell, splash pad, and waterfront walkways. However, it’s not the only project transforming downtown. The project should wrap up in Summer 2023.
Rodney Riley of RSR Capital Advisors has his eyes set a little north near the Clearwater Marina District, which is an area long plagued by abandoned businesses and vacant lots. His company plans to purchase 15 plots of land. Their goal is to first build luxury condos and office space. Then, they’ll work on a hotel, workforce housing, and a project to house artists.
“When you come into a community like this, one of the big issues is are you displacing residents, are you creating gentrification," Riley added. "That’s an important concern for any master planner. In this case, the 15 parcels basically have no one on it. There’s very few structures even on it."
Riley’s projects would all be less than a mile from the "Imagine Clearwater" project.
In November, Clearwater voters will get a chance to vote on the Bluffs project at the site of the former Harborside Convention Center and former Clearwater City Hall, which could soon feature a waterfront hotel, convention center, and commercial space.
While most people are happy about the upgrades, lifelong Clearwater resident Tina Suggs would like to see more inclusive progress.
“There’s a lot of development on the outskirts of Clearwater going towards the beach but on the inside of Clearwater, there needs to be more mentorships and academies for kids,” she elaborated.
She’s inviting developers to consider projects outside of the city’s waterfront.
“They need to take a trip inside of Clearwater, not in the outskirts where it’s pretty, but inside, and imagine they’re living there or their kids living there, then I believe things would change,” she added.
Change is something Clearwater is seeing a lot of recently.
“It’s actually creating more of an atmosphere down here,” Robinson added as he unloaded hot pizzas from his restaurant’s oven.