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Project joins strategy to energize Clearwater

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A developer proposes two towers of condos, hotel suites, an art museum and more for the city’s downtown. By EILEEN SCHULTE Published October 30, 2005 CLEARWATER – Real estate developer Lee Arnold has filed plans to build a $175-million mixed-use complex just east of the library, one of three significant projects designed to help breathe life into downtown. Called Clearwater Bay Club, the project will feature two towers, one with 161 condominiums and another with 60 hotel suites, an 11,700-square-foot ground-level art museum, a 3,300-square-foot cafe, a coffee shop, retail space and 11 urban residential lofts. Connecting them will be an L-shaped pool on a deck above six floors of parking. Arnold plans to build the project on a block bounded by Drew Street on the north and by Fort Harrison Avenue on the east. “We think this time we’ve come up with the right design at the right time,” Arnold said last week. The time was right to launch the project because the Clearwater Memorial Causeway is finished, he said. He added that demand for residential building in downtown is climbing. The city’s Development Review Committee is scheduled to hear Arnold’s proposal for the Clearwater Bay Club project Thursday. If all goes well, he could begin preselling the condos next year, with construction starting in the latter part of 2006 or mid 2007, he said. Prices of the condos have not been set, but Arnold said they will be less expensive than condo projects being built on Clearwater Beach. “We’re not going to be white-sand pricing,” he said. “We’ll be right in the middle of the market.” The parking garage will include 624 spaces, 242 of them public, which Arnold said he will try to sell to the city at cost. Ideas for the two-story art museum include filling it with Florida-style pieces, although he has not yet approached any museum. “We haven’t curated it yet,” Arnold said. “We plan to go out and see who can best curate it.” This week, Arnold also revealed his partner in the project: Herbert Brown, Arnold’s father-in-law of 31 years and founder of the Checkers Drive-In Restaurants hamburger chain in Tampa. Clearwater Bay Club is not the largest residential project developed by Arnold, chairman and chief executive of real estate company Colliers Arnold. He is building a 2,300-acre residential-retail community called Meadow Pointe in Wesley Chapel. Nor is this the first time Arnold has proposed development plans for that block in downtown Clearwater. In 2001, he proposed an $80-million project that included a 17-story condo-hotel. Arnold owns about half of that property; the Church of Scientology owns the other half, which fronts Fort Harrison. In July, Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw said Arnold has had a contract since 2001 to buy the church’s portion, which contains church offices. The offices will be relocated when the church’s new Flag building opens. “We have a very good relationship with the church and expect it to close after the first of the year,” Arnold said. Clearwater Bay Club joins two other core projects planned for downtown: Water’s Edge, a major development planned by Opus South Corp. on land where Calvary Baptist Church and City Hall sit, and the Acqua at the Downtown Plaza just south of Arnold’s project. In August, developer Elias Jafif announced plans for the $200-million-plus Acqua development, which includes 245 condominiums in a 380-foot tower. It would also have a 10-screen movie theater. All the developments would to help invigorate downtown, attract more residents and lead to what urban planning officials call a “16/7 city” – a place where people stick around after work to go out to dinner and come on the weekends, 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. “And certainly a first-class hotel in the downtown is an asset to Clearwater,” said Rod Irwin, Clearwater’s assistant city manager for economic development. Eileen Schulte can be reached at 727 445-4153 or Source:
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