Citizens Propose Art Center On Bayfront
By Anne McKay Garris
What to do about the Harborview Center on Clearwater's downtown waterfront has long been a question. City government has made suggestions, all of which were rejected by the voters. Recently the city put out a request for proposals from developers, none of whom responded.
So it's time to hear from the citizens of Clearwater on what their ideas are. This is the reasoning of a group of Clearwater women who have put together a very sophisticated plan that would give us an art and cultural center on the corner of Osceola and Cleveland Street, along with a children's hands on activity center between the library and the current location of Harborview.
These ladies believe that the quality of life needed by the citizens of Clearwater includes access to the arts, places to gather as a community and a place where children can go to experience the arts. This is true, they say, especially in the light of the current cutback of teaching the arts in public schools.
They have gone about it in a professional manner, forming the Clearwater Renaissance Foundation, Inc. and setting out to gather input and support from the Clearwater community for a plan. With educational and business backgrounds in finance and economics, art museum management and fundraising, non-profit management and renewable energy technology, and iron determination, Michelle Rowland and Erin Woodward, leaders of the Foundation, have considerable expertise to bring the plan to fruition.
At this time, the plan, pictured above, calls for the art center, the children's activity center, and expansion of the green space along the waterfront to include the current parking lot in front of Harborview Center.
The proposal provides adequate parking in a garage which will be located beneath a hotel adjacent to the art center, but still within the footprint of the Harborview Center. So that the taxpayers will not bear the costs of operating the art center and the children's center, Clearwater Renaissance proposes a hotel, operated on a non-profit basis with proceeds to support the two centers. The proposal includes restrictions that would prevent sale of the property intending that the hotel company lease the property from the city.
"Who is going to pay to build it?" is the first question. The Foundation pledges to raise the initial capital to pay for feasibility studies and other preliminary actions necessary to assure the public of the viability of the project. They will also foot the bill, if necessary, to gather the 10,000 voters signatures to get the project on the ballot for referendum. This would be necessary only if the Clearwater City Council refuses to voluntarily put the item up for referendum.
As for funding the project itself, the Foundation has arranged with the Private Wealth Management divisions of two large banking institutions to make that possible.
All of the board members of Clearwater Renaissance Foundation are donating their services for this project. Michelle Rowland, spokesman for the group, reports that, after presenting the plan to all members of the City Council, they are now talking to interested groups and individual contractors and developers in order to development a business plan for the project.
They are, however, most interested in hearing from the citizens of Clearwater, wanting to know, first and foremost, what appeals to them.
For more information, access the Clearwater Renaissance Foundation at www.clrf.org.
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