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Music-themed hotel, more proposed near Clearwater amphitheater

Veronica Brezina

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A rendering from The Bluffs group of the buildings it's proposing to build at the Clearwater sites. Image: The Bluffs/ City of Clearwater.

Two key waterfront sites in Clearwater may be redeveloped into boutique hotels, beer gardens and culinary incubators as part of the city’s strategy to revamp its downtown.

The city is seeking a developer to take advantage of the prime downtown properties – the former City Hall and Harborview sites known as the “bluff properties” – that offer unparalleled waterfront views. The city envisions the transformative sites could link to the planned redeveloped waterfront park that a new amphitheater will anchor. 

On Friday, the City of Clearwater released the development proposals it received from a handful of teams vying to acquire the properties. The three development teams that submitted proposals were Chicago-based GSP Development; Elevate Clearwater, which includes Channelside developer Ken Stoltenberg, the ECI Group, Smart City Group and Solaris; and The Bluffs, which is comprised of New York-based Gotham Organization and The DeNunzio Group, which is a locally based firm that has been involved in a handful of projects in St. Petersburg and Clearwater.   

The financial details in the proposals were not disclosed. 

Here’s an inside look at the proposals on the table 

GSP Development’s proposal

GSP Development is an Illinois-based real estate firm proposing to build a 16,900-square-foot development at the Harborview site with two indoor/outdoor restaurants, pop-up space and high-end retail. 

The theme/inspirational images for GSP’s Harborview project. Images: GSP Development/City of Clearwater

For the former City Hall site, GSP is proposing to build 4,850 square feet of high-end retail and 1,500 square feet of  “free” space that could be used by civic, cultural and non-profit groups. 

A rendering of GSP’s complex for the former City Hall site. Images: GSP Development/City of Clearwater

As part of the city’s requested terms, GSP said it would provide ample parking with 75 ground‐level public parking spaces for exclusive use by the library and the City. It would also go beyond the minimum 150 residential units requested by providing 504 rental units.

GSP Development is working in partnership with Kimmich Smith Architecture of Tampa on the proposed project. 

The group cited its experience in developing the $55 million Apex Clearwater project as a relevant example of how it can transform property.

The group said it turned the “failed office building” into a 134-condo unit tower, completed last year, that is now fully leased. 

 

The Bluffs’ proposal 

The Bluffs’ proposal entails retail, apartment towers and green spaces offering amenities linking to the waterfront. 

The Harborview site as envisioned by The Bluffs group. Image: The Bluffs/City of Clearwater

The group envisions a 150-key hotel and 15,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space at the Harborview site.

The 13-story hotel would have a boutique conference center, which could hold 1,000 people, is located on the second level overlooking the park, and a rooftop restaurant and bar that boasts waterfront views.  

The design of the building’s base includes a tilted lawn that brings the public up to a rooftop beer garden and private event spaces.

The Bluffs group’s introductory letter listed several restaurants and retail partners, including John and Trudy Cooper, Volet Hospitality Group and Sea Dog Brewing Co.  

The reimagined former City Hall site. Image: The Bluffs/City of Clearwater

Meanwhile, the former City Hall Site would have 600 rental residences, 25,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 600 parking spaces. 

There would be two 27-story residential towers with a shared public common space with a resident’s pool deck and amenity center. 

“The Bluffs provides a direct connection to Coachman Park and the Imagine Clearwater project bridging the gap between the hotel, restaurant, and retail spaces with specific public realm improvements such as improved landscape connections, pedestrian bridge, and immersive art experiences,” the team wrote in its cover letter. “The City Hall site provides a residential rental product that provides a catalyst for people to engage in these private and public improvements. By providing public spaces, The Bluffs can support events to supplement the schedule of the Capitol Theater and Ruth Eckerd Hall’s programming of the amphitheater.” 

The proposal did note the team is working with design firm Stantec, which is the same firm working with the city on the renovation of Coachman Park as part of Imagine Clearwater. 

 

Elevate Clearwater’s proposal

The group is proposing to build 388 apartments and townhomes in a 24-story building for the City Hall site, which would be developed by Stoltenberg and the Atlanta-based ECI Group. It would also have 22,000 square feet of retail space and 18,000 square feet that would be used for restaurant space and a culinary incubator. 

A rendering of the mixed-use project for the former City Hall site. Image: Elevate Clearwater/City of Clearwater

The neighboring Harborview site would be transformed into what it calls the “Solaris music hotel development” in its proposal. The 200-room hotel, which would be operated by Experiential Ventures Hospitality and built by Solaris Development, is highlighted as being the destination for the Clearwater Jazz Holiday celebration event space. 

A rendering of the 200-room hotel. Image: Elevate Clearwater/ City of Clearwater

It also states a speakeasy, pool deck and venue that could be used for weddings would also be encompassed within the hotel. Additionally, the parking would be underground and the ground floor would have 14,000 square feet of food and beverage concepts. 

Another rendering of the proposed hotel. Image: Elevate Clearwater/ City of Clearwater

 

A look back at the advertisement for the properties

The parcels on the bluff are the Harborview site and the former City Hall site, which are both in an opportunity zone. However, the city has put a big emphasis on the transformation of the Harborview site, which housed the city’s Harborview Center before it was demolished in 2019. 

“The city is open to a developer, or development team, which may be interested in developing one or both of the sites, understanding that the Harborview site is of special priority to the city. The Harborview site is the city’s priority for redevelopment out of the two sites, given its strategic location and adjacency to the park entrance,” the city’s advertisement to developers read. 

The vacant Harborview site is located near the intersection of Osceola and Cleveland Streets, adjacent to Clearwater’s main public library, and is considered to be the “front door” of the future waterfront park. 

The city has identified ground-floor retail as a requirement for the 1.43-acre Harborview site. The Harborview site does currently contain approximately 112 parking spaces used by library patrons. Any future uses will be expected to at least partially replace these parking spaces, potentially with the support of the city’s parking funds. 

Meanwhile, the 2.6-acre City Hall site at 112 S. Osceola Ave., at the intersection of Pierce Street and Osceola, is available as the city has relocated the functions of City Hall to a nearby building.

“This site also has direct access to the future waterfront park and is an important connection between the waterfront and the rest of downtown,” the advertisement read. 

The City Hall site is available for a fee simple disposition or a ground lease.

The city said it will consider a mix of rentals and condos on the sites with a minimum target of 150 rental units on one site or across both sites. The allowable FAR (floor area ratio) is 4.0 and the allowable density is 75 units per acre or 95 hotel units per acre.

Next steps 

All three teams will present their proposals at a special council work session on Monday at the Clearwater City Council chambers. 

The city is required by the city charter to hold a public referendum to sell or lease the Harborview and City Hall sites for non-city facility uses. The referendum process will occur following the evaluation and selection process of the prospective development partner.

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