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    Developer offers parking now, hotel later

    If Clearwater accepts the idea, beach land owner Bill Kimpton says he will construct a 170-space parking lot the city could lease.

    By LEON M. TUCKER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 15, 2002

    CLEARWATER -- A developer hopes the city accepts the idea of replacing, for the time being, plans for a $65-million hotel on Clearwater Beach -- with a parking lot.

    Attorney Bill Kimpton, who owns the property in the 200 and 300 blocks of S Gulfview Boulevard, still wants to build a 250-room, Marriott resort on Clearwater Beach.

    But citing an international hotel market on the skids, Kimpton recently submitted a proposal to knock down the existing Beach Place and Glass House motels on the site, and construct a 170-space parking lot which the city would lease for public use.

    Kimpton had planned to build a 150-foot-tall resort with a pool on the roof, a restaurant and ground-floor shops, and initially expected to finish construction by fall 2003.

    Now Kimpton says work would start on the hotel in 2004.

    "To do big tourism projects you have to have a strong economy," Kimpton said. "Sept. 11 pretty much wiped out tourism in Florida."

    And with no tourism Kimpton said attempting to build a new resort would be "just impossible."

    "These are factors even beyond my and Kimpton's control," said City Manager Bill Horne. "We certainly recognize the market may not be strong enough to support that project at this time."

    While city leaders said they knew few details about Kimpton's proposal, many were optimistic -- especially with the possibility that additional parking could help move along the city's Beach Walk project.

    "Any time we can get more parking out there I would be interested. ... I just have to see what the numbers look like," said Mayor Brian Aungst. "If we were to find enough money to do Beach Walk this would be a good situation."

    The Beach Walk project would redesign Gulf Boulevard from Pier 60 near the roundabout, south to the Adams Mark hotel as a meandering sidewalk and road system enhanced with landscaping and designated areas for pedestrians and bike riders.

    "If we are going to go forward with Beach Walk, we will need to relocate the parking currently along Gulfview," said Commissioner Whitney Gray. "So I think Mr. Kimpton's offer to do this as a temporary measure is a good thing."

    "We would only want to do that if we really are going to move forward with beach walk and I don't know if we have decided that yet," she added.

    Kimpton submitted the site plan for the temporary parking lot to the city's planning department two weeks ago and will go before the Development Review Committee on Thursday.

    From there, it will be reviewed by the city's community development board, which will hold a June 18 public hearing concerning the matter. Officials said it will likely be late summer before it gets to commissioners.

    Meanwhile, Kimpton said he expects the economy to bounce back within a couple of years.

    "It's a give and take thing," he said. "It solves the city's temporary parking needs and helps gives us time to let tourism get strong again."

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