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Beach traffic about to get worse

200 parking spots and part of S Gulfview will close for construction starting Monday.

By MIKE DONILA
Published March 1, 2007


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Construction pains along Clearwater Beach are about to worsen in the midst of tourist season.

Starting Monday, parking problems will grow when construction crews take over the 200-plus parking spaces at Pier 60 to start the second phase of the vaunted BeachWalk revitalization project.

The parking spaces will be unavailable for roughly four months. But Clearwater is leasing about 100 nearby temporary spots to make up some of the difference.

Traffic will also worsen. The city will close S Gulfview Boulevard from where it splits with Coronado Drive to about a quarter-mile south.

Local leaders, who held a celebration Wednesday to mark the completion of the first phase of BeachWalk on Coronado Drive, say the pain will eventually pay off by making the beach a more desirable destination.

"Our community (will) agonize through this, but at the end of the day it's worth it," City Manager Bill Horne said. "Clearly we can all see how much this will give our community a better way of life."

But some small business owners say the disruption threatens their livelihood by driving customers away.

Pam Wozencraft, who has owned and operated Captain Memo's Pirate Cruise for the past 30 years near Pier 60, said she and other owners "feel like we're being dumped on." At the least, she said, the latest construction shouldn't have begun until the tourist season ends in eight weeks.

"I don't think the city fathers really thought about this and I don't think they have any idea what's going on out here. They think it's a giant development program."

Plea for patience

Wednesday morning's celebration drew about 140 people, mostly local leaders, the media and a few visitors who wanted to see what the fuss was about.

"This is going to be the greatest vacation destination in the nation, but the next few years will require an unprecedented level of patience and flexibility," said Sheila Cole, executive director of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce.

When it's over, the beach will have wide promenades on each side of Gulfview Boulevard that will eventually stretch a half-mile from the pier to where the old Adam's Mark Hotel once stood.

The $30.4-million project will also feature a game table area, decorative showers, greenery and a seating area to watch the sunset.

A few businesses declined to comment, while others said they didn't know what would happen.

"I have no idea, but I'm sure this will affect the beach one way or another," said Mel Jones, a sales representative with Queen Fleet Deep Sea Fishing. "It's a done deal, so there's nothing anyone can do about it."

Phase two will take about a year to complete.

Fast Facts:

BeachWalk schedule

The city's $30.4-million BeachWalk initiative is about to enter its second stage. Here's a look at the construction schedule for the project:

- Phase I: This phase added a third lane to Coronado Drive just east of the beach. It also built sidewalks and crosswalks and added decorative lighting along the drive.

- Phase II: Developers will transform about a quarter-mile stretch of South Gulfview Boulevard beginning at the Pier 60 parking lot. The plan is to turn Gulfview into a two-lane road and push it closer to the beach. Crews will then build wide promenades on both sides of the road, so visitors can walk, bike and go inline skating near the sand. Work on this phase begins Monday and is expected to take a year.

- Phase III: Mirrors Phase II, except it will stretch the final quarter-mile to the site of the old Adam's Mark Hotel, a project now dubbed Indigo Beach. This phase will take a year and should begin in March 2008.

- Phase IV: Developers will spend about six months in this cleanup phase, putting on final touches and tying up loose ends. This should be finished by the end of summer 2009.

For more information about BeachWalk, visit www.myclearwater.com/beachwalk . To find out where to park and to see where the detours are during construction, visit www.myclearwater.com and click on the red "Spring Break" icon. To schedule a presentation about BeachWalk, call the City of Clearwater Public Communications Department at (727) 562-4681.

[Last modified March 1, 2007, 00:00:27]


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