CLEARWATER - The relationship between the City of Clearwater and Opus South Corp. may soon grow closer. A City-issued "Request for Proposals and Qualifications" (RFPQ) for the redevelopment of the City Hall property received only one response by its April 29 deadline; the sole respondent was Opus South.
While the RFPQ did not identify specific development requirements, it clearly favored proposals that included the assemblage of the Calvary Church and City Hall properties via the following statement: "The CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) has determined that the redevelopment of the Site would have optimum affect if the proposed Project incorporated the Calvary Baptist Church and High School parcels in the plans." Opus South holds a purchase contract for the two mentioned Calvary properties.
The RFPQ went on to suggest a handful of development features, including public parking, a mix of public/private/retail/restaurant uses, pedestrian accessibility, and public access to the bluff. Regarding the site for a new City Hall, the RFPQ stated, "Relocation of City Hall within the redevelopment project is possible, but not a preferred option."
Although Opus has made several public presentations about its plans, its proposal is the first written material that has been made public. While it fails to provide all the details asked for in the RFPQ, it offers a more complete glimpse of what is planned.
Opus has divided the overall project into two phases, Phase I for the Calvary Sanctuary property and Phase II for the City Hall property. Each phase will consist of a 25-story residential condominium building, and an adjacent low-rise private parking structure wrapped by street-level storefronts with residential units above. A public promenade is planned between the two condo towers, providing waterfront views, pedestrian-friendly access to the bluff and park, and parking for about 60 vehicles.
A total of 157 condo units, 312 private parking spaces and 10,022 square feet of retail space will be constructed in each phase. By Opus' calculations, City code permits only 241 residential units on the land area being developed; the Downtown density pool would provide the 73-unit shortfall. Opus estimates the value of their redevelopment project, excluding a new City Hall, at $250 million.
Opus' proposal also disclosed a time line estimate for the City Hall property. They suggest the new City Hall's design should be completed during the first quarter of 2007, and its construction complete during the first quarter of 2008. Opus would begin Phase II construction during the first quarter of 2008.
Bill West, Real Estate Manager for Opus South, said that his organization is no longer proposing to locate the new City Hall on the eastern half of its current property. Opus now plans to use that area to create a mirror image of the Phase I development, with condos above low rise street level retail occupying the space formerly identified as City Hall. Opus proposes to purchase only the southern half of the City Hall site, with the northern half being the City's contribution to the public promenade. Although it is not stated in Opus' proposal, the new preliminary design would locate City Hall on the Calvary High School property.
Opus' proposal does not contain a purchase offer; according to the RFPQ, the City has ordered an appraisal of the site and intends to seek fair market value for it. The terms of the deal are being negotiated between the City and Opus in the form of a Development Agreement.
A City selection committee will meet on Friday, May 6, on the first floor of City Hall to evaluate Opus' proposal. Having no competition, Opus will likely win the committee's recommendation. The City Council, sitting as the CRA, will select the "winning" proposal on Tuesday, May 31. A referendum seeking voter approval for the sale of the City Hall property is scheduled for November 8, 2005.
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