$35,000 study was a waste, leaders say

A consultant offers ideas for Clearwater redevelopment that some say aren't feasible. The firm will try again.

Published October 4, 2005

CLEARWATER - The city's elected officials lashed out at a Miami consultant on Monday, calling his company's $35,000 market study of downtown practically worthless.

"I've never been as disappointed with a study by an outside vendor as this one," said Mayor Frank Hibbard at a city work session, criticizing Lambert Advisory's findings as both unworkable and trifling. "I've seen undergraduates who have done better work."

Among other findings, the study, commissioned in April, suggested city leaders work to build a hotel on the site of the Harborview Center and redevelop the corner near the Royalty Theatre into a 150-unit condominium development.

Neither of those ideas are feasible, the mayor said.

Further, the study failed to provide parking options, specify retail potential or discuss the fate of Coachman Park.

"There's no epiphany here," said City Council member Hoyt Hamilton.

Standing before the council Monday, the consultant, Paul Lambert, admitted deficiencies in the 52-page work product. His voice quavered at times as he addressed questions.

"It's not comfortable to have me standing up here," Lambert said.

He said his firm would rework the study for a second review by the council. Some of the council requests were not part of the original study parameters, Lambert said.

The study was filled with information about Clearwater and Pinellas County's median home sales price, as well as rent rates and existing retail and office inventory figures.

But city leaders had hoped to see a business plan for downtown Clearwater's economic rebirth.

There was no specific mention of how to draw people to downtown from places like Island Estates, Belleair or Countryside. Nor was there discussion of what types of retail - supermarkets, antique shops, chain stores or restaurants - could thrive in the city's urban center.

Hibbard said city officials could have been as productive in a single brainstorming session.

Still, he hoped to draw something from the $35,000 analysis. Lambert Advisory, one of nine firms that bid for the work, lists the state of Florida, Dade County, and the former Russian republic of Moldova among its clients.

"We have to get value out of the money we spent," Hibbard said.

--Aaron Sharockman can be reached at 727 445-4160 or asharockman@sptimes.com