CLEARWATER - Promising to remake South Beach into a world-class tourist destination, Clearwater's Beach Walk project has been beset with delays. But the pieces are now falling into place to begin construction in January 2006.
One roadblock was removed in early-November; a lawsuit brought by citizens concerned that the City's contract with the Hyatt Hotel violated the City Charter was settled, paving the way for the vacation of streets and exchange of land necessary to start construction.
The project was financially ambushed in August by the cost of construction proposals that far exceeded the City's expectations; Clearwater's engineering consultant, PBS&J, had estimated construction costs at $19 million, but the low cost bidder, Westra Construction, proposed $25.7 million.
Faced with a delay in obtaining environmental permits and the potential of losing $4 million in federal grants if the project was delayed, the City decided to split Beach Walk into two distinct projects, separating the construction on Coronado, which had no environmental concerns, from Gulfview and its drainage issues.
Westra was again the low bidder on the Coronado project, submitting a proposal for $9.85 million. According to Doug Mathews, the City's Public Communications Director, the cost was not a surprise; since August, the cost of PVC has risen 12.5%, asphalt, steel and cement 5%, and fuel 25%.
The City's RFP included an alternative that would close Coronado Drive entirely from the end of Spring Break until year-end 2006, giving the contractor complete access to the site and, hopefully, reducing the cost of construction. Indeed, Westra's alternate proposal was about $110 thousand lower, but Mahshid Arasteh, Clearwater's Public Works Administrator, was uncertain if that option would be taken. She said that Beach business owners have been promised that Coronado would retain two lanes of traffic throughout the project, and that the City Council would have to decide if the $110 thousand cost reduction was of value.
The contract award to Westra and the decision on closing Coronado will be on the Council's December 15 meeting agenda. Construction on the Coronado project is expected to begin in January, and complete by year-end 2006.
The Gulfview portion of the project is proceeding independently. Arasteh said that the City will comply with the requirements issued by Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, and expects to have the necessary permit by June 2006. An RFP for the Gulfview project will be issued in 2006, with construction planned to start in January 2007.
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