CLEARWATER, Fla. - Preliminary plans for the redevelopment of the Calvary Baptist Church and City Hall properties have been revealed to several groups of Clearwater citizens during the last two weeks. The plans are the result of months of behind closed-door negotiations between City Staff and representatives of Opus South Corporation.
Opus has a contract to purchase two Calvary properties overlooking Clearwater's downtown waterfront: the 1.8-acre Sanctuary site and the 1.4-acre Calvary Christian High School site. City Hall and Pierce Street separate the two properties.
Opus plans to make an offer to purchase City Hall for "fair market value" according to Opus South Senior Vice President Jerry Shaw; that value will be determined by independent property appraisals, although Shaw said that the offer would be comparable to the per square foot price that Opus has agreed to pay for the Calvary properties.
Opus' preliminary site plan calls for two 25-floor high-rise condo towers adjacent to the bluff, one on the Calvary property and one on the existing City Hall site. The towers would contain about 130 residential units each. Each tower will have an adjacent low-rise parking structure wrapped by street-level storefronts with residential units above. A pool deck will occupy the roof of the low-rise buildings.
Opus wants to acquire only half of the City Hall property, the portion adjacent to the bluff; they have proposed that the new City Hall be constructed on the remaining half of the property, the portion facing Osceola Avenue.
A 150-foot wide public promenade is planned between the two condo towers, providing waterfront views, pedestrian-friendly access to the bluff and park, and parking for about 40 vehicles. About 1/3 of the land necessary for the promenade is currently Calvary property; Opus plans to dedicate that to the City. The remaining 2/3 is on City Hall property which Opus will not purchase, but expect the City to dedicate to the promenade. The City would be expected to bear the cost of constructing the public promenade.
The remaining Calvary property, what is now the High School, is planned to become a public parking garage. During the day it would provide parking for City Hall employees; during evenings and weekends it would provide parking capacity for the public coming downtown for shopping, dining, or special events. Shaw said that Opus may give the High School property to the City, requiring the City to build the garage. Opus would retain the "air rights", allowing it to construct an office building or more residential condos over the garage in the future.
The financial details between the City and Opus have not yet been determined, but Shaw said that its purchase price of the City Hall property combined with the additional property taxes that the project would generate within the downtown CRA will cover the cost of constructing the new City Hall, parking garage, streetscaping, and Coachman Park improvements "well within the remaining 14 years of the CRA." Mayor Frank Hibbard estimated the annual tax benefit to the City at $2.5 million per year while the CRA is in effect.
The sale of any portion of the City Hall property will require the approval of voters at a referendum. The City has tentatively scheduled that vote for November 2005.
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