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    Palms may sprout in roundabout

    A proposal for date palms wins a contest to replace the fountain in Clearwater Beach's roundabout.

    By CHRISTINA HEADRICK

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published October 31, 2001


    CLEARWATER -- The winner of the Clearwater Beach Association's competition to redesign the middle of the roundabout calls for a grove of palms to replace the fountain.

    The design, created by St. Petersburg landscape architect Jim Clees of Harvard Jolly Clees Toppe Architects, is beautiful in its simplicity, said members of the beach association, who presented the contest winners to city commissioners Monday.

    The idea harkens back to when Clearwater Beach was known as the "Isle of Palms," beach association members said.

    Commissioners will consider the winning design later this year, along with second and third place finalists when they again discuss how best to replace the fountain.

    Commissioners didn't say much Monday upon reviewing the designs. However, City Manager Bill Horne questioned whether drivers looking through the grove of palms would be able to see what cars are doing at other entrances of the roundabout.

    Driver complaints about the fountain obstructing views across the roundabout is one reason why most commissioners have said they favor demolishing it.

    Clees said he thought drivers would be able to see through the grove of medjool date palms and low clusters of Aztec grass in his design. He also noted his idea leaves a 15-foot-wide open area around the grove, which would enhance views around the circle in an area where the fountain now exists.

    Clees, whose firm receives $800 in prize money for the design, was happy Tuesday when he found out he had won the competition. He said he thought the roundabout's center "needed to be something of monumental scale and impact."

    "I thought a big grove of large date palms would achieve that," he said. "I also wanted to have some form of movement, with the palm fronds blowing in the breeze. And I wanted to add the grass at the bottom of the trees to reflect some sort of relationship to the gulf, with repeating parallel berms."

    Clees said the berms were supposed to have an undulating look like waves. In addition, Clees said that the use of drought-resistant plants would reduce water use for the city.

    The second prize winners were Brook Sherrard and J. Texada, University of South Florida students, who suggested building a sphere of sculpted concrete in the center of the roundabout with a spotlight in the center that would shine at night as a beacon for the beach.

    Third place went to Teresa Burney, a Times reporter who is on leave and taking classes at the University of South Florida. Burney proposed building a series of natural sand dunes in the roundabout.

    The competition was open to landscape architects and other design professionals. The association received seven entries.

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