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    Redevelopment zones approved

    Clearwater commissioners give an initial nod for redevelopment in two areas near downtown.

    By CHRISTINA HEADRICK

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001


    CLEARWATER -- To encourage new condominiums, townhomes and businesses to sprout north and south of downtown, the City Commission approved a redevelopment plan Thursday for the area.

    "The periphery plan recognizes there were edges of downtown that were more in character with downtown's core, rather than suburban areas," city Planning Director Ralph Stone said. "So we're absorbing those into the downtown area, and we hope the plan will help redevelop them, some of which are not in the best shape."

    The plan, which has been in the works since 1993, was approved unanimously with little debate. It mainly affects two areas.

    The biggest area is a 67-acre zone that includes some of the city's oldest wooden homes northwest of downtown. The partly dilapidated area is bounded by Nicholson Street on the north, the Pinellas Trail on the east, Jones Street on the south and Clearwater Harbor on the west.

    Under the new plan, which requires a second vote to make it official in two weeks, the city is creating an new gold coast that will be zoned for high-rise development overlooking Clearwater Harbor.

    Between the harbor and Garden Avenue, anyone who can consolidate 2 acres will be allowed to build up to 50 housing units per acre where they are now generally limited to only 7.5 units per acre. On the east side of the zone, the creation of apartments, townhomes and new offices would be encouraged between Garden Avenue and the Pinellas Trail.

    Some local history buffs and residents of the area had raised concerns that the new zoning would cause some of the city's oldest and most historical wooden homes to be demolished and redeveloped.

    Stone told commissioners Thursday that some language has recently been added to the plan to encourage the reuse of historic structures if appropriate.

    One developer, Clearwater resident Don Harrill, who is working on building a condominium, townhouse and restaurant project at a marina at 900 N Osceola Ave., applauded the plan.

    "Unfortunately, this is one of the areas of the city that has been declining," Harrill said. "We're very excited about the area and ready to move forward with our plans as presented. I think your adoption of this ordinance is important to continuing the interest in the area."

    The other area that will be affected is a 19-acre zone southwest of downtown, roughly bounded by Fort Harrison Avenue and the Pinellas Trail, north of Druid Road.

    Originally, the city was proposing that much of the area should be zoned for only office or residential development. But now, the city is proposing to open the entire area to commercial development.

    The reason is that a shopping center, including a grocery store, has been proposed to take up most of the land in the area.

    Commissioner Hoyt Hamilton said he hopes the new plan continues the city's redevelopment, and suggested he'd be willing to create development incentives in other areas farther from downtown.

    "We've got to get the ripple started and then just let it expand out," Hamilton said.

    Commissioner Bill Jonson glanced at Hamilton and added, "Just as long as that ripple effect doesn't intrude into neighborhoods."

    "Exactly," Hamilton said.

    "I thought that's what you meant," Jonson said.

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