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Capitol Theatre Renovations to Start in November

The much anticipated project to expand and renovate the old movie house is expected to begin in November, officials with Ruth Eckerd Hall say.

Bob Clifford knew the Greater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce was operating in space on borrowed time. 

At some point the business association's lease in the Lokey Building space on the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola would run out.

Of course that would be when the much anticipated renovation and expansion of the historic Capitol Theatre would consume the sliver of buildings on both sides of it.

That day could be coming sooner than thought. 

City leaders decide Thursday if they will give the Chamber a notice to vacate its space at 401 Cleveland St. within 60 days from Sept. 1 in order for work to start on the renovation of the Capitol Theatre. 

Plans include incorporating the building and converting it into a grand lobby, concession areas, and restrooms for the theatre which would then be able to seat 655. 

Clifford said the Chamber has been doing its due diligence for more than a year looking for another property to move to. Still Clifford, who is president of the Chamber, is shocked at what could be a quick turn around to move the operation.

“At no point during these conversations has anyone told us that January 1 would be a date of fact that construction would be started,” Clifford said during the City Council work session meeting Monday. “I don’t see how you can reasonably expect permitting processes to start by November 1 to start construction,” Clifford said.

Joshua Magidson, a member of the board of directors for Ruth Eckerd Hall, said the project has to move along because there are many moving parts including setting up contracts for construction and for performers who set their schedules well in advance.

City leaders worry that the project is not essentially shovel ready and are slow to push out their tenant.

The city also still is working on its operating agreement with Ruth Eckerd Hall. City Attorney Pam Akin said that should be finalized in September. Even without the deal closed, the city still should give the Chamber notice to vacate, Akin said.

“I think it’s fair to say that our concern is that we don’t want to hold anything up... but we don’t want to kick the Chamber out then sit around an extra month or two,” Cretekos said.

The project is also dependent on using the alley space, which would have to be vacated by the county.

Regardless contractors need the building to start preparing the site for design and construction. And that work is expected to begin Nov. 1, according to a letter from Zev Buffman, president of Ruth Eckerd Hall:

"In order to proceed with the renovation at the Captiol Thetre in a timely manner, it is requested the tenants of the Lokey Building vacate."

The project's completion is planned for Oct. 2013. 

The Capitol Theatre theaters in the state of Florida. Sen. John Taylor had the movie house built during the city's first boom. Movies ran throughout the week and vaudeville performances were Friday night. The city designated the structure a historical landmark in 2009, the first by the city.

The chamber is looking at a few locations including one on the other side of the 400 block of Cleveland Street. However it will take time for construction and to sign a lease to occupy that space, Clifford said.

Several other spots outside of the district are also available, he said. However, Clifford said the chamber is doing a lot tourism promotion and would prefer staying downtown, close to Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure and taking up a space along Cleveland Street. 

Clifford said that if the chamber is served notice to vacate Sept. 1 it will have to move outside of the downtown core.

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Michael D. August 14, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Will the renovations include changing the hard wood seats in the threatre. That is a change I would support.
Wendy Gilmore August 14, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Will the renovations include a place to park for over 600 people. Parking is already a major issue in that area.
Jared Leone August 17, 2012 at 12:44 PM
There is no parking lot planned as part of the renovations. There are street spots available, multiple parking lots nearby and a multi-level parking garage about two blocks east on Garden Avenue. Here is a map to more available downtown parking: http://www.myclearwater.com/gov/depts/pwa/engin/ParkingSystem/parking_downtown.asp Here is more on the Capitol Theatre renovation: http://patch.com/A-v1cG

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