CLEARWATER - Plans for the City's Beach Walk concept moved a step closer to being finalized, as Richard Claybrook of the Post Buckley engineering firm presented what he called the 60% Design to the City Council during their November 29 Work Session. The 60% milestone represents the completion of detailed construction plans.
The Beach Walk project was identified in Beach by Design, Clearwater's master plan for beach redevelopment, as both an attractive public amenity and a lure for resort hotel development on South Beach. Its design and construction plans were accelerated this past August when the City Council allocated $15 million to the project to satisfy the requirements of the developer of the Hyatt Beachwalk Resort.
Among the many features comprising the 60% design are the extension of the beachfront promenade to Pier 60 Park, and an interactive fountain just to the north of the Pier 60 Pavilion. A Sundial Plaza with a misting fountain will be located just to the west of the planned pedestrian bridge from the Hyatt Beachwalk Resort. A Chess / Backgammon Plaza with seating and board game tables along with a stainless steel sculpture of a sea horse is planned on the east side of Gulfview Blvd further to the south. At the south end of the promenade there will be a plaza in the shape of a nautilus shell, with seating and a decorative crosswalk to the City's surface parking lot adjacent to the Adams Mark Hotel.
Nine beach access points are planned, each with a seating wall that also functions to block windblown sand from the promenade. The access points will also have unique "icons" embedded in the concrete walkway, giving each its own identity. New beach showers will be installed, each having a large turtle at the top of the structure.
The project will be constructed in four phases beginning in April 2005 and ending in November 2008. The first phase will reconstruct Coronado Ave into four lanes, and relocate the portion of Gulfview Blvd in front of the planned Hyatt Beachwalk Resort through an existing parking lot. Phase I should be complete in April 2006.
Phase II will create the north half of Beach Walk from Pier 60 to just south of the planned Hyatt. The new curvilinear Gulfview Blvd will take shape, and the new Second Street, beach accesses and plazas will be constructed. This phase will last from May 2006 to May 2007. The third phase will start in June 2007 with a one-year duration, constructing the southern half of the project from the planned Hyatt to the south parking lot.
The final phase will finish Coronado, converting it from four lanes to three plus on-street parking. Final modifications to the beach and beach dunes will also be made in Phase IV, which should be completed in November 2008.
While the plan was largely accepted, several Council members raised concerns. Council member Hamilton objected to the use of water features close to the beach, expressing concern that windblown sand would create a maintenance nightmare. Both Hamilton and Jonson worried that the use of 4 lanes on Coronado during construction would interfere with deliveries to businesses and the ability of motel guests to drop-off their luggage. Hamilton said, "When we take this (parking lane) away, we're telling some of those small motels on Coronado - folks, you're done!"
City Engineer Mike Quillen said that the Maintenance Of Traffic (MOT) plan has not been completed by DKS Associates, but that Hamden Ave could be used in lieu of a fourth lane on Coronado for traffic carrying capacity. The Council input is timely, Quillen said, because the MOT plan is at a point where it can still be modified. The 90% MOT plan is due in late-December to early January according to Quillen, and will contain an option for the drop-off lane on Coronado that was sought by Council member Jonson.
Unasked was the question of how Beach Walk's artwork was selected. Several components of Beach Walk's 60% design are or consist of artwork: the Seahorse sculpture, shower-top turtles, and beach access "icons". Several years ago the City Commission was presented with several alternatives to take the place of the demolished roundabout fountain, but made no decision; instead they asked the City Manager to develop a process to select public artwork.
That process, if it exists, was not used during Beach Walk design. City Engineer Mike Quillen said that Post Buckley selected Beach Walk's artistic features, but added, "It's not too late for public involvement with regard to public art."
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