CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – The Clearwater City Council chambers exploded with clapping when city council members voted unanimously to proceed with the Imagine Clearwater project.
The project for Coachman Park was postponed in May after a sudden $20 million spike in material costs that raised concerns among city leaders worried about the final price tag.
Most citizens who elected to speak at Thursday’s meeting were in support of Imagine Clearwater. Patrick Rafferty was one of them.
“Quite frankly, at some point, you’ve got to say, go big or go home,” Rafferty told council members. “None of us wants to go home, so lets go big. “
Bud Elias is also in support of the project. He believes it will breath new life into the downtown Clearwater economy.
“This change, with imagine Clearwater will make a significant difference in terms of the renaissance of our business,” said Elias. “People will come from all over, not only wanting to come to Clearwater Beach but to enjoy the amenities in the park. “
Lisa Lanza was the only one who spoke in opposition, suggesting those dollars could be better spent elsewhere.
“We need these funds to complete and maintain our bicycle trails,” Lanza told commissioners. “And to install bathrooms and water fountains along our bicycle trails.”
The project was supposed to cost $64 million. The plan includes an amphitheater, a park, water features, and shade structures.
The rise in costs was due to materials and certain amenities added by the city council who feel that if it’s going to be a major project, they want to make sure it’s done right.
Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard is pleased the project is moving ahead, and he believes residents and visitors will be pleased with the end result.
“The expectation of what we’re going to have two years from now is amazing. It’s going to be a wonderful project. It’s going to serve all of our citizens and the entire Tampa Bay area,” said Mayor Hibbard. “I think it’s the third diamond in the crown of Tampa Bay.”
The first phase is already underway, the project is expected to be completed in July 2023.