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Clearwater Marine Aquarium Eyes City Hall for $160 Million Expansion

Winter the dolphin would be moved to a $160 million facility at City Hall, and Coachman Park would be expanded under the proposal, which also seeks nearly $60 million in government help and approval by Clearwater voters.

Winter the dolphin is looking to make a multi-million dollar move.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium officials present a $160 million proposal to create a downtown facility in place of City Hall that also incorporates an expanded Coachman Park at a city council workshop March 5.

Clearwater voters would have to approve any deal that includes development on the waterfront. The plan includes a timeline that includes a November vote and, if approved, opened by April 2017.

Ultimately, the aquarium is looking to establish two locations.

As in the "Dolphin Tale" movie, the Island Estates facility would be completely transformed into the movie moniker: Clearwater Marine Hospital.

The facility would be devoted to caring for injured animals. The change would also reduce traffic on Island Estates, but not completely.

“It would continue to have only a minor tourism aspect,” according to the proposal.

The downtown facility would become the main attraction, bringing in an estimated two million visitors to see residents including Winter and her poolmate Hope.

Renderings show a front entry that features the words “Starfish Aquarium” above the doors. The 203,000-square-foot modern architectural style building has children playing in fountains out front. Other renderings show the facility would also have a two-story coral reef.

The plan also would bring changes to Coachman Park.

Green space would be enhanced and expanded to include areas formally developed for parking as well as demolishing the Harborview Center. The facility was slated for demolition before aquarium officials worked out a deal to establish Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure downtown attraction in 2011.

“Many citizens desire waterfront parks and green space,” according to the proposal.

The facility would be linked to the redeveloped Coachman Park.

The price tag, an estimated $160.5 million.

The plan would need public support including a referendum to be voted on in the November ballot and an extension of tax increment financing downtown.

The aquarium would want to extend the lease at the Harborview Center until the new facility is complete. It could take about two years to build. 

The construction costs total $119.3 million including: 

  • $50.7 million - exhibit/venue construction
  • $8.2 million - non-exhibit construction cost
  • $50 million - building systems
  • $7.6 million - 630 space parking garage
  • $2.8 million - Engineering, site and ultility
  • $41.2 million - Soft costs

Where would the money come from?

Potential funding sources include big and small donors, grants and government entities and corporate support, according to the proposal.

  • $60-$80 million - bank financing
  • $35-$60 million - government entities
  • $20-$45 million - major donors
  • $10-$30 million - corporate
  • $15-$20 million - current facility
  • $5-$10 million - grants
  • $5-$10 million - small donors

Aquarium officials honed in on the City Hall location because of its proximity to saltwater and the feasibilty of assembling land. Officials closed on the vacant property adjacent to City Hall in January. The proposal also cites the building is "obsolete and is run at a high cost to the city."

Aquarium officials surveyed other sites including:

Super block: Described as the east side of Osceola Avenue, the south side of Drew Street, west of Ft. Harrison Avenue and north of Cleveland Street.

Harborview Center: Seen as not feasible because the building could not be converted for use and the construction would block views to the water.

“Key constituencies with interest in the Coachman Park area would prefer HVC to be replaced w/ Coachman Park expansion,” according to the proposal.

If you go:

What: Clearwater Marine Aquarium proposal for City Hall and redeveloped Coachman Park

When: 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 5

Where: City Hall, 112 S Osceola Ave

Related coverage:

  • Downtown Neighbors Track Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s Visitor Impact
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium Opens Downtown Attraction
  • Experience A Hurricane at Clearwater Marine Aquarium
  • See Winter the Dolphin by Water Ferry
  • Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure Looks to Grow
  • Winter’s ‘Dolphin Tale’ Could Net $5 Billion for Clearwater Area
  • Coachman Park Committee Cool With Aquarium Plan for Harborview Center
  • Pickles Plus Deal Sours

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katie hofer March 01, 2013 at 01:25 PM
Please thank it over. Thank you
Michael H. March 01, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Looks like it might be just the kind of development downtown needs to spur economic development
Sheila Cole March 01, 2013 at 04:27 PM
City has looked for many years to replace the old City Hall, well here it is on a platter. Just too bad it couldn't have been done when the MSB was built. Perhaps now in the Frank Crum building?
Ed Woods March 01, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Clearwater is such a great place to live.
Milissa Silks March 02, 2013 at 05:26 AM
Just what do you intend to do to Coachman Park?
Todd Russ March 02, 2013 at 10:13 PM
I agree Clearwater is a great place to live. Support Downtown Clearwater. Visit www.GulfviewLiving.com for your local real estate needs!
john doran March 03, 2013 at 08:07 PM
did you miss the rendering among the photos? titled NEW AQUARIUM AND CONCEPTUAL MASTER PLAN FOR COACHMAN PARK

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