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Buildings flattened for downtown's Flats

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Buildings flattened for downtown's Flats

The $15-million mixed-use Clearwater development will boast 48 upscale units, four retail shops and an eatery with a market cafe.

By MEGAN SCOTT, Times Staff Writer

Published March 18, 2005

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CLEARWATER - A Thursday morning rain didn't stop the celebration at an old hardware store on Turner Street.

The crowd sipped mimosas under their umbrellas, and cheered as the bulldozer rammed into one of the vacant buildings.

"My unit's going to be over there," said Bob Propes, as he pointed to one of the sheds. "I'm right near the trail. It's going to be nice."

Propes was one of 40 people who attended the groundbreaking ceremony for a $15-million mixed-use development on Turner Street and South Myrtle Avenue.

It is one of a few developments going up in downtown Clearwater.

"I have been here 23 years," said council member John Doran. "For 23 years, I have heard over and over again, we have to do something about downtown. We have a number of residential projects coming along."

The ceremony Thursday marked the start of construction for Old Clearwater City Flats at Wells Court - 48 upscale units, four retail shops and an eatery with a market cafe. The first units are expected to be finished by spring 2006.

"It's exciting for us because we're really going to begin the construction phase today," said F. Blake Longacre, president of Wells Court, the developer. "It's not just me. Downtown Clearwater is happening."

Longacre purchased the 2.8-acre site for Old Clearwater City Flats from Religious Community Services. RCS bought the property in 2003 but didn't need all of it. A hardware store and warehouse were once located there.

The condos will be single-story, two-bedroom, 1,700-square-foot units with 9-feet-4 ceilings, Florida rooms that can double as third bedrooms, and two-car garages. The units in the seven-building complex cost between $259,900 to $310,000.

All but eight have been presold, said Kelly Kepler, director of sales and marketing for Wells Court Development.

"We're in downtown, in a nonevacuation zone, 2.5 miles from the beach," said Kepler. "It's a great location.

Location is what attracted Maurice and Camilla Bernard. The couple, who live in Sand Key, were one of the first to secure a unit. They even convinced Camilla Bernard's brother and his wife to purchase a unit in the same building.

"We love downtown Clearwater," said Maurice Bernard. "We came here in September (to look at the renderings). I saw that it had a two-car garage, nice space, and we put down a down payment right away."

Downtown Clearwater has been gaining momentum. A Publix and shopping complex replaced a downtown car dealership a couple of years ago. A SouthTrust Bank next door was built in 2004. And AmSouth is opening a branch at the northeast corner of Druid Road and Fort Harrison Avenue.

Residential construction has also picked up. Construction on the $10-million Townhomes of Harbor Oaks on S Fort Harrison Avenue began last month. The three-story townhomes will replace efficiencies on 2.6 acres south of Druid Road near Jasmine Way. They are expected to be finished by the end of the year.

There are 45 units, all but two already under contract. The homes, which are at least three bedroom and 2.5 bathrooms, range from $225,000 to $355,000.

"I think people like to live closer to the beaches and downtown," said Greg Iglehart, president of GWI Investments, the developer. "Harbor Oaks is a wonderful historic neighborhood."

Longacre said he is already searching for more property in downtown Clearwater. But he said it is becoming much harder to find.

"If you want to get in Clearwater, you better get in now," he said. "Because it's all over but the shouting."

Megan Scott can be reached at 445-4167 or [email protected]

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Its about time we start to see these types of developments in downtown Clearwater. With the right city leadership, its got the potential for an urban boom similar to the ones being experienced in Fort Myers and Sarasota.

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