tampabay.com

Trendy future for 1100 Building

The high-rise is 34 years old, and plans for it include stores, offices and luxury condos.

By MIKE DONILA
Published August 25, 2006


CLEARWATER - Right now, the old office building on the 1100 block of Cleveland Street is empty.

Some of its windows are broken, the color is faded, the awning is torn and the parking lot is barren.

But builders say that's expected to change soon.

Officials with a local real estate development and investment company say they're ready to put $45-million into the Clearwater Centre, a 15-story tower at the eastern gateway to the city's downtown core.

The company, Clearwater Centre LLC, says it will transform the 34-year-old building into a trendy mixed-use development of luxury condos, stores and offices.

Work begins in early fall, and company officials say the building will be ready by spring 2008.

Local leaders say Clearwater Centre, often dubbed "the 1100 Building," will continue the city's efforts to reinvigorate the downtown area.

"Part of the downtown revitalization strategy is getting people to live there ... because once you get the people in, that creates a demand for restaurants and retail," City Manager Bill Horne said. "I think this is an excellent project that will preserve a corner in that part of the downtown in the east and serve as a catalyst for more development there."

The Clearwater Centre LLC project joins several other planned or ongoing housing initiatives downtown, including a 157-unit condominium tower called Water's Edge, which is replacing Calvary Baptist Church; the 146-condo unit Station Square; and another project along Fort Harrison Avenue.

Although the housing market is slow, neither Horne nor Clearwater Centre managing partner Guy Bonneville is concerned about being able to sell the condos, saying the market moves in cycles. Bonneville also said he wasn't worried about possibly saturating downtown with condos.

"It doesn't bother me in the least bit," he said. "We're looking at a unique situation that downtown Clearwater offers. This is a ground-floor opportunity.

"There hasn't been a lot happening in a long time, and now the city is redoing the landscape, talking about putting a marina at our footsteps, and there are other projects going in. So we feel really good about what's happening here."

The company bought Clearwater Centre in October 2004 for $5.7-million. In the past, it has mostly been used for offices. Now, though, Bonneville says the plan is to renovate the tower and build a three-story perimeter building connecting to it.

Overall, the property will include 71 condos, 17 one- and two-story residences, and more than 20,000 square feet of upscale retail and office space. The property also will include concierge services, a pool and spa area, as well as a fitness center and party room.

Bonneville said the condos will range from 1,100 square feet to 3,300 square feet in various configurations with one, two and three bedrooms. They will cost between $230,000 and $1.5-million.

Bonneville says that, so far, Violet's Caf, a bakery, will move into the building, and he's meeting with two other retail companies but declined to provide any details about those discussions.

In addition, the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce is moving in. Clearwater Centre LLC recently bought the chamber's 22,000-square-foot building next door for $1.9-million.

Chamber officials said they didn't need as much space, but wanted to stay in the downtown.

"We certainly feel it's very important ... and with all the revitalization and renewal projects going on ... we think in a couple years' time it will be a totally different place for people to come and see," said Beth Coleman, chamber president. "It's a very exciting time for downtown Clearwater."

Clearwater Centre LLC officials are still ironing out the details for the chamber building, as well as a 4-acre site they own across the street at Cleveland Street and Madison Avenue.

They say that site, the former Stone Buick dealership, might not tie in with the Clearwater Centre tower project.

Bonneville said the focus for this area is a "lifestyles center" that includes restaurants, retail and offices, but "nothing is firm right now."

Mike Donila can be reached at mdonila@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.