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Sundial owner, FlyUSA vie to control Clearwater Airpark

Veronica Brezina



A rendering of the proposed reimagined Clearwater Airpark. Image provided by Paradise Ventures.

The City of Clearwater has garnered interest from multiple firms seeking to become the new operators of the 47-acre Clearwater Airpark, including an offer from Paradise Ventures, the owners of the Sundial shopping complex in St. Petersburg

During a Thursday committee meeting, private aviation operator FlyUSA and commercial real estate firm Paradise Ventures earned the highest ranking in meeting the mark of what’s required to be tapped as the next fixed-base operator (FBO) for the airpark at 1000 N. Hercules Ave.

“We were proactive about the proposal and decided to team up. There isn’t going to be a new airpark in Pinellas County, and we can take advantage of improving the current property and know we don’t have to have very long runways to support advanced aviation technology,” Mike Connor, CEO of Paradise Ventures, told the St. Pete Catalyst.

Connor, who has owned aircraft, explained he will bring his deep-rooted commercial real estate knowledge to the forefront alongside aviation industry expert Barry Shevlin, CEO of FlyUSA. 

“I have utilized many FBOs across the county for years,” Connor said. “The city deserves a better FBO.” 

In June, the city advertised a request for proposals to enter into a 30-year lease agreement with an FBO to uplift and manage the 80-year-old airpark, which houses businesses including the Tampa Bay Flight School, Vertical Flight and Tampa Bay Aviation. The deadline to submit proposals was Aug. 2. 

An aerial of the Clearwater Airpark. City of Clearwater image.

The city received responses from three other aviation groups: Clearwater Airpark Services Inc., Clearwater BlueSkies Inc. and Clearwater Airpark Inc., which is connected to David King, the current operator, according to city documents. 

“The city’s goal is to continue to support the general aviation community while maximizing opportunities to activate the facility with operations that emphasize flight and neighborhood safety. Of particular interest are proposals demonstrating the ability to bring higher value but less intensive activities,” according to the city’s advertisement.  

The city’s desired goals for the new FBO include: 

  • Making capital improvements within the site at its sole cost and expense
  • Entering into a lease agreement with a revenue portion back to the City of Clearwater for the
    operation of a general aviation airport on the property
  • Providing for all costs associated with the operation and maintenance of the airport 
  • Securing funds necessary to maintain and operate the airport 
  • Providing an annual certified financial audit 

At a minimum, the FBO is expected to maintain a weekly schedule to support general aviation activities, and provide public facilities for pilots and their passengers as well as aircraft ramps, fueling services and maintenance. 

In the duo’s proposal, they wrote, “Our combined vision is to build a state-of-the-art terminal/FBO which will be the catalyst in bringing higher value activities and tenants to the airpark and, at the same time, preparing it for the future of aviation. Bringing the right, higher value tenants to the airpark will also result in more efficient, and less intensive, activity for the surrounding neighborhood.” 

The team is also promising to deliver 40,000 square feet of additional corporate hangars and would establish FlyUSA’s corporate offices at the property. 

The financial terms of the proposed agreement were undisclosed.

The next step is for FlyUSA and Paradise Ventures to go before the committee at a later date to answer any additional questions.  

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