Clearwater wants to control more of the downtown development
Yesterday in front of a vocal and packed city council meeting Clearwater made a bold move against the Church of Scientology, as they hope to control how the downtown is developed. The city council voted unanimously 5-0 to spend $4.25 million on buying a 1.4-acre parcel of land from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the same land that the church had offered $15 million for earlier this month.
So, the land located at the corner of Pierce Street and Osceola Avenue is a prime spot for development and both the city and the church both wanted it.
Scientology leader David Miscavige, spoke to a select group of city retailers, last week about his plan to spend at least $60 million dollars to create, condos, apartments, restaurants, high end retail shops and parks.
Meanwhile, the city of Clearwater wants that land for a 10-year, $55 million overhaul of the waterfront and Coachman Park to create their own high end residential and commercial project.
So, was this a business move by the city to develop the land with their vision or did they just want the land so The Church of Scientology, did not gain a bigger footprint in the city. There isn’t any data or reason that the city or their residents should fear a takeover by the church, but it seems that some living in the community do fear a takeover.
- The residents of Clearwater made sure that the city leaders knew that they felt the church was buying up too much land in the city and in so doing the city was losing control of what was being developed. Again, no reason to fear the church but a small and vocal group does.
- The Church of Scientology recently bought an estimated $26 million worth of downtown Clearwater real estate. A key part of that investment was buying the Atrium office tower, with the primary plan of making it part of a long term residential and commercial development project. But without the Pierce Street and Osceola Avenue parcel of land could vastly effect how the church will handle that investment and the city could see their investment backfire if nothing happens with the new land acquisitions in down Clearwater aren’t put to good use by the church.
- The Church of Scientology has been a member of the Clearwater community since 1975 and they have developed a large number of projects in the city. If the church feels that Clearwater no longer wants their investment dollars, then that could be a problem for the city.
- Mayor George Cretekos, wants the land and feels that it is in the city’s best interest to handle the development. But he also does not want to upset the church either. “All of us, whether we are Scientologists, whether we are Presbyterian, Methodist, Jewish, Muslim, or in my case, Greek Orthodox, we will be able to celebrate a Clearwater that truly is ‘Bright and Beautiful Bay to the Beach.'”
- According to a 2015 article in The Daily Mail, The Church of Scientology owns, a half a billion dollars of land in the city of Clearwater. That includes according to the article, 67 buildings over ten square miles of land in Clearwater. They are big player in Clearwater and the key to the success of both the city and the church is how they can find ways to work together. That delicate balance is a challenge for both sides and that will continue to play out over the future.