Site proposed for library and City Hall
By ANITA KUMAR
©St. Petersburg Times, published December 24, 1997
CLEARWATER -- City officials are considering building
a new City Hall and a main library across from each other
at the intersection of Cleveland Street and Myrtle Avenue.
The proposal calls for the two buildings to face Cleveland
Street, separated by a well-landscaped, decorative traffic
A drawing created by a consultant shows City Hall at the
southwest corner, in place of an old hotel owned by the
Church of Scientology. It puts the library at the northeast
corner on the former Chick Smith Ford property.
City Manager Mike Roberto's redevelopment plan for
downtown calls for the creation of a "city center" or
government hub at that intersection, which already
includes police headquarters, a municipal office complex
and the Pinellas Trail.
Roberto said he will present his downtown proposal to the
City Commission and public in January and hopes to have
a site for the library by spring.
He told members of a library selection committee Tuesday
that the city is considering other sites for City Hall and
the library, but he wants to keep the buildings in that area.
He would not say what property is being considered.
Roberto persuaded committee members, who favored
another site at Cleveland Street and Missouri Avenue, to
abandon their original decision. He told them his location
would provide an anchor for downtown and would help
encourage walking and not just driving.
"In our eyes, it's an extremely logical location," he said.
City officials say the existing City Hall, more than three
decades old, will need to be extensively renovated or torn
down and replaced within the next three to five years.
Commissioners have not decided whether to build a new
city hall or how they would pay for a new building or
renovations. Scientology spokesman Brian Anderson said
church officials have previously talked to the city about the
former Travelodge building, but no decision has been
made about selling or trading the property.
The church bought the building, now called the Mariner,
last summer for $475,000. Church officials said they plan
to renovate the building at 711 Cleveland St. and use it to
house visiting members. Soon after Roberto started work
in June, he said church officials asked him whether the city
would be willing to swap land with the church. Scientology
officials have expressed interest in acquiring a city alley
on Court Street near the American Red Cross and a small
parking lot at the corner of Franklin Street and East
Clearwater Neighborhood Housing Services, a private,
non-profit corporation formed to promote economic
development in the city, is leading an effort to bring a
Publix supermarket to the Chick Smith property. Roberto
said he will meet with housing services officials in the next
Isay Gulley, executive director of housing services, said
Tuesday that she was surprised the city was considering
the property because efforts are still under way to land the
"It's surprising -- very surprising," Gulley said. "There was
no indication the supermarket wasn't wanted there. You
can't say you support the spot for a supermarket and then
say you want to use it for something else."
Gulley said she is concerned mixed support from the city
will "kill the deal" with Publix. She said she expects to
hear from Publix next month. Winn-Dixie had previously
expressed an interest in the property, but decided against
putting a store there.
If the city builds the library on the Chick Smith property,
it would have to be several stories high, because there's not
enough land to spread the building out. Because it used to
be a car dealership and fuel may have leaked into the
ground, the property would probably have to be cleaned.
A parking garage would also have to be built directly
behind the building along Laura Street and possibly
connect to the library through an elevated walkway.
Library officials are eager to construct a
112,000-square-foot replacement for the 80-year-old
library, which has structural problems that make certain
areas dangerous and unable to hold bookshelves.
The city will pay for the library with Penny for Pinellas
sales tax money it will begin collecting in 2000.
Commissioners have said they may consider borrowing
money for the project before 2000 and then paying it
Incidentally, contact info for Clearwater city officials is available from
the Tampa Bay Contact List, on my website.
"Without question the RPF's operation violates a number of human rights
statutes, probably involving such topics as freedom of religion and
conscience, labour laws, arbitrary arrest, forcible confinement, and
protection of the dignity of the human being... Ironically, as the
United States Department of State heightens its criticism against
Germany's handling of the Scientology affair, at least three of
these abusive programs continue to operate on American soil."
- "Brainwashing in Scientology's Rehabilitation Project Force"
Dr. Stephen Kent, Professor of Sociology, University of Alberta