It's Plan B for Beach Parking Garage
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER – During Tuesday's worksession, the City Council embarked on Plan B for a municipal parking garage on Clearwater Beach, and the B does not stand for Britts.
Last year, the Council established the Britts/Surf Style property on South Gulfview Blvd as the preferred location for a new beach parking garage. City staff has been in negotiations with the owners of that property for the construction and condo-style ownership of what could ultimately become 500 public spaces, but those negotiations reached an impasse last month when it was determined that the city could not provide a $3-million construction loan.
For the project to go forward, Britts/Surf Style would have to obtain construction financing on their own.
On Monday, Assistant City Manager Rod Irwin updated the Council on Britts status; “I have to tell you that as of this morning around 10 o'clock I spoke with the comptroller of the company, and they do not have a commitment or an imminent commitment for the extra funding,” he said.
Irwin, in an effort to speed the process, had suggested to Britts that attorneys for the two sides could begin meeting and drafting the term sheet that would be required to move the project forward. “They have declined to do that because they didn't feel that, until they had a better sense that there could be funding in place, that it was an expenditure of funds that were prudent on their part,” Irwin said of Britts response.
”So we've not had any further meetings with them,” Irwin said. Discussion then turned to Plan B.
Last month, with the Britts alternative even then having an uncertain outlook, the Council also asked Irwin to explore the former Lucca Development property east of Coronado Drive as a backup garage site. Foreclosure proceedings now completed, Irwin began discussions with the former lender and now owner, iSTAR Financial.
Irwin obtained two appraisals on the .9-acre property that iSTAR was seeking $4.5-million for last year. The appraisals valued the site between $2.3 and $2.9-million, although Irwin qualified them as having been done “with no real comps. All this is being done in somewhat in a vacuum.”
Irwin said that iSTAR had interest in negotiating a sale to the city. But he said, “They are also in active discussions with other parties to acquire the property that may be imminent.” Third party potential buyers of the iSTAR property have been in contact with the city, Irwin said, with interest in completing a garage deal similar to what the city has discussed.
While he didn't want to close the door on Britts, Irwin proposed that the city focus its effort on the iSTAR property for the next 30 days, a suggestion that the Council members agreed with.
“I'm ready to move forward with the iSTAR property,” said Councilmember Paul Gibson. “I was ready to move forward last month, so I'm still ready,” said Vice Mayor George Cretekos.
Councilmember John Doran, who last month said, “If there are two other votes for anything, I'm the third,” agreed. “I prefer the Britts location, but I think we need to start down path B,” said Mayor Frank Hibbard. Councilmember Carlen Petersen, who stated her preference for the iSTAR site last month, was not present at Monday's meeting.
Irwin reminded the Council that while they were required to obtain appraisals on the property, “you are not bound by law to go with those appraisals.” Third parties could value the the property higher for commercial uses than the city's appraisal for public use. Having development rights of about 35 condominium units or 51 hotel units, a transfer of density could become a bargaining chip in the city's negotiations.
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