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Clearwater council favors $45M City Hall plan

Veronica Brezina

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A rendering of the public plaza entrance for the new Clearwater City Hall project. All images: Wannemacher Jensen Architects.

The City of Clearwater is now pursuing one of three options presented for a new City Hall that will better connect the departments and public in a centralized building. 

After deliberating on the alternative plans ranging from $43 million to over $76 million, city council members unanimously voted June 15 to select a $44.87 million plan (Option 2) that calls for a standalone City Hall building along Myrtle Avenue.

An aerial rendering of the Clearwater City Hall. 

The vacant city-owned lot is south of the aging 27-year-old Municipal Services Building, and is near the Pinellas Trail. The selected plan includes the renovation of the existing MSB, which is estimated to cost roughly $13.3 million. The MSB’s parking garage will remain intact to support the new City Hall project in addition to the new on-site parking. 

Jason Jensen of St. Pete-based Wannemacher Jensen Architects, the design group leading the envisioned project, presented the varying development options for the site at an earlier workshop meeting. Renderings of Option 2 unveiled a wave-like exterior design for the 41,679-square-foot City Hall.

The City Hall would have an outdoor area that could function as a local gathering space for community events.

A rendering of the lobby in the first level of the Clearwater City Hall. 

Inside, the first level would contain the human resources department and lobby. The second level would feature the chambers and connections to the offices of the council, city manager, city clerk and city attorney. Meanwhile, a proposed third level would function as an additional rooftop event space. 

The three proposed City Hall options.

The two rejected alternatives: 

Option 1: The first option entailed the construction of an additional 35,387-square-foot building connected to the MSB. The first level would house the city’s economic development, parks and recreation, city clerk and CRA’s (Community Redevelopment Agency) offices as well as training rooms and other operations. The second level would include the offices of the engineering, planning and development, city attorney, city manager and council. The third level would feature finance and audit, human resources, innovation, and the traffic departments, among other offices. It was estimated to cost roughly $43.2 million, which includes the MSB’s renovation cost. Jensen explained Options 1 and 2 would disrupt staff as the departments would relocate in different phases from the MSB while a single move would occur for Option 3. 

Option 3: This option was an added alternative the city staff suggested evaluating before the final selection. Option 3 called for a combined City Hall and MSB into a new building totaling over 103,000 square feet. It was estimated to cost roughly $76.2 million. It would house similar departments on different levels; however, it would consist of five floors. Jensen said Options 1 and 2 are estimated to take 22 months of construction. Option 3 would have extended to a 30-month construction period. 

Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst Sr. recommended that the new City Hall should be named after the late Bill Horne, who served as city manager for 20 years. 

While fellow council members agreed to the recommended naming dedication, the proposed name change will go before the public in July for an official vote. 

In addressing a question from a public speaker about the design process, Clearwater Engineering Director Tara Kivett said the city previously issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) from design and engineering firms to spearhead the project. Wannemacher Jensen was then selected. 

During the Thursday meeting, the council members also voted to increase its demolition contract with Biltmore Construction from $557,693 to $810,237 to complete the demolition process of the former City Hall on Osceola Avenue, which the city staff vacated in 2019. 

Other surrounding municipalities are also undergoing civic projects. The City of Largo is undergoing an $81 million development dubbed Horizon West Bay, which will be a mixed-use project with a new City Hall, significant retail spaces and a parking garage. It will be built on the northern 400 block of West Bay Drive. 

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