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Clearwater: to get new downtown tower

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Downtown condo tower gains city approval

Feb 23, 2004

City commissioners Thursday night gave final approval to a development agreement meant to bring a 14-story condominium, restaurant and retail tower to downtown Clearwater.

The Station Square building will be downtown's first high-rise, mixed use redevelopment project in 15 years.

The vote was 4-1, with Commissioner Bill Jonson voting no. He worried that, at 158 feet, the Station Square building would be inconsistent with the historic character and scale of development on Cleveland Street.

The contrast might be especially stark, Jonson said, because the tower would be next to the city's post office, which is on the National Register of Historic Places for its Mediterranean revival architecture.

"I love the project," he said. "I just wish the front side had a different feel to it."

Other commissioners, however, welcomed the $42-million project with no such misgivings.

Interim City Commissioner J.B. Johnson said he thought the Station Square project would be a catalyst for other new development downtown.

"I think this is a project that's beautiful," he said. "It is something that the city of Clearwater has needed for years. It's going to bring people downtown."

Now that it has the city's approval, the developer will work on completing the project's design, said Nick Pavonetti, director of development management with Beck Development, which is designing the project.

Once the design is finished and the exact cost of the project is known, developers will line up financing for the project. Pavonetti expected construction will begin this summer and take 12 to 14 months to complete.

When finished, the building will have up to 146 condominium units, 15,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space and 326 parking spaces. Under the terms of the development agreement, the city will pay the developer $1.25-million to buy 100 of those parking spaces, which will be made available to the public.

The high-rise is planned for slightly less than an acre on Cleveland Street. Currently, the property consists mostly of a parking lot next to Station Square Park.

Ray Cassano, a downtown property owner and health food distributor, who also is prominent in local Scientology circles, is heading a group of local investors backing the project.

As part of the work, Clearwater Custom Floors, the two-story building at 628 Cleveland St., would be torn down and the business would move, developers have said.

In an unrelated matter, commissioners briefly discussed this week's announcement that cracks have been discovered in four columns supporting the new $69.3-million Memorial Causeway Bridge.

Mayor Brian Aungst thanked city Public Works Administrator Mahshid Arasteh for warning city officials long ago not to try managing the bridge's construction themselves.

As a result, the city and the state agreed to have the Florida Department of Transportation manage the project. Clearwater officials plan to work with DOT as it determines what can be done to repair the bridge and will not let it open until it's safe.

"We're as frustrated as anyone else out there," Aungst said. But he said experts have told him the design of the bridge is sound. "It's not sinking, and it's not a flawed design. . . . To blame anyone in the city of Clearwater for the mishaps of the bridge is inaccurate and unfair."

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