CLEARWATER – City officials have agreed to postpone the launch of the long-awaited Monday revolution of the estimated $ 64 million transformation of the downtown waterfront in light of soaring construction material costs and the uncertainty that drives one of the city’s biggest infrastructure projects.
Mayor Frank Hibbard made the proposal at Thursday’s city council meeting after consulting with City Manager Bill Horne and Deputy City Manager Michael Delk earlier today. His colleagues on the board agreed unanimously.
“I don’t want anyone to misinterpret this, I fully support the completion of Imagine Clearwater, but I believe in the proper sequence of events,” Hibbard said.
City construction manager Skanska is currently underway on underground utility work on the 22-acre Imagine Clearwater project after delivering a guaranteed maximum price of $ 12.9 million for site work in April.
But Delk said the city is still waiting for Skanska to deliver the guaranteed final price for the vertical construction, estimated at $ 64 million. The final guaranteed price will include the last costs of construction materials and raw materials.
Delk expects to receive final figures in August, but said work on the ongoing underground utility will continue in the meantime.
“It was the ceremony that was delayed,” Delk said in a subsequent interview. “The project advances.”
Imagine Clearwater calls for a transformation of the underused waterfront into a park with an outdoor amphitheater, putting green, meandering cliff boardwalk, playground, and walkway surrounded by mixed-use projects.
Lumber prices are at record highs and crude oil, which is used for a range of building materials, has risen 80% since October, the the Wall Street newspaper reported in March. As demand puts pressure on the supply chain, increases are also being seen in everything from concrete to steel and other commodities.
Imagine Clearwater has faced multiple delays since the city approved the concept plan in February 2017. Specifically, in October 2018, the council ordered consultants to return to the drawing board to replace the simple Discovery Strip hull. by a covered amphitheater with 4000 seats. The change resulted in a six-month delay in the design process.
A series of dignitaries were scheduled to attend Monday’s inauguration, including U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg; Florida House speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor; Sen state. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater; State Representative Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach; and stakeholders from various neighborhood organizations, businesses and downtown.
City staff were finalizing speakers and logistics as late as Thursday morning, hours before the postponement, according to the emails.
But city officials tried Thursday to maintain optimism that a delay in the groundbreaking ceremony did not mean a delay in construction of Imagine Clearwater.
Delk also said questions raised about the maximum guaranteed price for building the park will not affect the city’s assessment of two developers’ proposals for mixed-use retail and residential projects for three city properties around the waterfront. City staff are expected to make a recommendation to council on these proposals on June 3.
“I’m not thrilled to think of a delay, but as long as we keep moving forward I’ll accept that and hope we see if those prices come down,” said board member Mark. Bunker.