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Downtown project gets initial approval

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The City Council must still approve an agreement before construction could begin on Acqua at the Downtown Plaza.By AARON SHAROCKMAN Published November 16, 2005CLEARWATER – A $200-million plan to bring a movie theater, restaurants and a residential high-rise to a key downtown block won initial approval Tuesday, bringing the future of downtown into focus.Acqua at the Downtown Plaza, a 4-acre project at Osceola Avenue and Cleveland Street, would include the city’s only first-run movie theater and its tallest building at 380 feet.The city’s Community Development Board raved about developer Elias Jafif’s proposal in unanimously approving the project. The City Council must still approve a complementary development agreement before construction could begin.Mark Rieker, Acqua’s project manager, said the council could hear the matter as early as January.As proposed, the project would include:a 33-story tower with 245 condominiums ranging from 1,059 to 5,588 square feet.a 55,000-square-foot, 10-screen movie theater.1,223 parking spaces, 360 of which would be owned by the city.The AmSouth Building at the southwest corner of the development would remain but would be reclad to match the Chicago-style architecture of the new buildings, architect Tim Baker said.The residential tower would dominate a new city skyline, curving to match the shape of the new Memorial Causeway Bridge.“The city staff requested at the onset that they wanted a “Wow’ project,” said Ethel Hammer, a planning expert paid by the developers. “I think this fulfills that mission.”As part of the development agreement, the city will promise to send tax revenues generated by the Acqua project back to the developer to offset the cost of theater parking. Previously, the city had suggested giving back $9-million to pay for parking.Assistant City Manager Rod Irwin said it’s too early to determine the size of the city’s contribution, though he does not expect a radical change. The city would also like to see a deal finalized with a theater operator before inking an agreement.AmStar Entertainment chief executive officer Stephen Colson said he remains committed to the project. “The people of Clearwater have indicated a clear need and desire for something like this,” he said Tuesday.A dozen residents and business owners spoke in favor of the project, which also received the support of the new Clearwater Downtown Partnership.“It’s a signature piece,” said Community Development Board member Nick Fritsch. “We can all be proud.”ACQUA AT THE DOWNTOWN PLAZA WHAT HAPPENED: Developers won preliminary approval to build at the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue. WHAT IT MEANS: The design of the buildings in the project are now set. WHAT’S NEXT: A development agreement needs to be considered by the City Council, perhaps as soon as January.Source: http://www.sptimes.com/2005/11/16/Northpinellas/Downtown_project_gets.shtml
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