Clearwater, Florida -- Why would a panel of experts say the key to making a big Bay area downtown awesome -- is a single Starbucks coffee shop?
A panel of worldwide experts is in Clearwater to give them bold, new ideas to transform downtown. A lot of the ideas are amazing, including the idea for a coffee shop.
A coffee shop that already exists.
How could a panel of top city planners -- after talking to nearly a hundred local leaders -- decide a lone Starbucks in Downtown Clearwater is the most important business in the entire city?
It's all about cooperation.
The expert team from the Urban Land Institute found one thing crippling Clearwater's growth: past head-butting and conflicts between the city and its largest landowner, the Church of Scientology.
But the ULI group says a city-church partnership was created to bring a simple Starbucks here and that teamwork is a blueprint for turning what's now a hit-and-miss downtown into a total hit.
"Cooperation starts with genuine, mutual, shared interest. What is good for the town, what is good for the church, what is good for the people?" said Brad Rogers, a member of the ULI team.
"You find those sweet spots. And you ask yourself, 'What is the next Starbucks? What can we actually get done together?'"
The panel also laid out some big, bold ideas:
- Recruit waterfront restaurants up on the Bluffs
- Tear down the clunky Harborview Center and open up access to the water
- Turn the Memorial Causeway Bridge that leads to the beach into a work of art, with lighting or something else
- Turn one street north of downtown into a shopping center aimed at people who live there, with basics like a barber and laundromat
- Create a hub for startup businesses
- Build a new Clearwater Marine Aquarium downtown -- a plan that voters also approved
The City of Clearwater paid $125,000 for this study, which had its results released Friday morning.
City leaders plan to take the ideas and turn them into a new action plan for Downtown Clearwater.