Council approved beach parking garage-retail complex

— The city council last night approved the development agreement for a 642-space parking garage and 11,000 -square-foot retail complex at the rear of Pelican Walk Retail Center on Poinsettia Street in Clearwater Beach with Safety Harbor developer Michael Connor of Paradise Group, LLC.

Connor is negotiating to purchase the 1.68-acre tract, which currently includes the 39,000 square-foot retail center and the adjacent surface parking lot with 94 spaces. If the sale goes through, Connor wants to build a seven-story, parking garage with first floor retail shops on the lot along Poinsettia Street behind the shopping center at 483 Mandalay Ave.

In June, the city and Connor entered into a purchase agreement. In the agreement the city would pay $11.3 million for 450 parking spaces that would be available for public use. A month later, the Community Development Board approved the garage design in the development agreement and recommended that the council also approve it.

According to the development agreement, which went before the council last night, the proposed parking garage is not economically viable without the city’s purchase of the parking spaces

City leaders have said that the proposal achieves a public purpose in the district of East Shore / Mandalay area, where they expect demand for retail and employee parking to continue to increase.

The proposed garage is expected to alleviate some of the parking problems and traffic congestion in the Mandalay Avenue Retail District. The rectangular area lies north of the roundabout to Baymont Street and from Poinsettia Street west to Mandalay Avenue.

If all conditions are met and the deal moves forward, the garage could open next year.

Concerns raised by nearby residents and business owners who oppose the project say it will create more traffic congestion, spoil the view and use taxpayer dollars to subsidize what should be a private venture.

Residents are also concerned that more beachgoers will use two nearby public beach access points at the west end of Baymont and San Marco streets, which do not offer amenities such as showers to wash off or restrooms for those leaving the beach.

Baymont Street is primarily used by employees and guests of the Sandpearl Resort and residents of the Sandpearl Residence. San Marco Street is primarily used by residents of the Mandalay Beach Club.

Clearwater Beach’s popularity continues to test city leaders grappling with how to balance residential and beach employee parking needs with the demands of tourists, particularly during peak seasons.

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