Editors note: The online edition of this article differs from the print edition. Figures supplied by the City of Clearwater after the deadline for the print edition have been included here.
Loss of public parking will peak at over 500 spaces during Phase 2
CLEARWATER - Parking has long been an issue on Clearwater Beach, and it's not being resolved any time soon. In fact, the construction of Beach Walk will make matters worse for the next several years, and the South Beach parking inventory will suffer a net loss of spaces by the time construction completes.
Beach Walk construction is scheduled to begin in April after the conclusion of Spring Break. Phase 1, which lasts from April 2005 to April 2006, will relocate part of Gulfview Blvd through what is now Lot 32 North, removing 92 parking spaces and 22 metered spaces on Gulfview Blvd. according to Mike Quillen, Clearwater's Director of Engineering. In addition, Phase 1 will widen Coronado Drive, removing approximately 202 back-out parking spaces currently managed by small motel owners to serve their guests and day visitors to the beach. The net loss of parking during Phase 1 amounts to 316 spaces.
Phase 2 of Beach Walk construction, scheduled for May 2006 to May 2007, will begin transforming Gulfview Blvd, moving it westward and turning it into a curvilinear roadway. This phase will further reduce public parking capacity, removing 66 spaces from the Pier 60 lot, and eliminating the remaining 201 spaces in Lot 32 North. The loss of parking during Phase 2 amounts to 267 spaces, bringing the project's cumulative loss of parking to 583 spaces.
The Hyatt Hotel, along with its 400 public parking spaces is expected to open in June 2007, coincident with the completion of Phase 2. The capacity of the garage will be a huge boost to South Beach parking, but it will not overcome the losses during Phases 1 and 2; the opening of the Hyatt garage will leave the public with some 183 parking spaces less than what is available today.
Beach Walk construction Phase 3, scheduled for June 2007 to June 2008, will address the southern half of Gulfview Blvd. During this phase, lot 32 South will shrink by 112 spaces, and 31 on-street metered spaces will be lost. The net loss of parking capacity during Phase 3 will be 143, bringing the cumulative losses during the project to 326.
The fourth, and final, phase of construction is scheduled from June to November of 2008. During this cleanup phase, 55 on-street metered spaces will be added to Gulfview Blvd. and Coronado Dr. At the completion of the 42-month Beach Walk project, there will have been a net loss of about 271 public parking spaces on South Clearwater Beach.
Private developments may provide some relief, but their timing is uncertain. The "Patel Resort", not yet approved by the Clearwater City Council, has offered to make 100 of its parking spaces available to the public. In addition the proposed conversion of the Ramada Inn to condo's may provide an additional 85 public parking spaces according to a parking study conducted for the City by Chance Management Advisors. But the potential of 185 public parking spaces from these two private developments will still leave South Clearwater Beach with 85 fewer public parking spaces than what is available today.
While Beach Walk promises to remake South Clearwater Beach into a tourist destination, the loss of public parking during its construction will limit public access to the beach, and further contribute to the expected traffic congestion. City officials are considering several alternatives to ease the parking shortfall, including trolley service to off-beach parking sites, but no solutions have yet been funded or announced.
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