The City Desk: Downtown Clearwater Draws International Interest
This is an installment of a column written by and about the city of Clearwater. This month, the city looks at its Downtown Clearwater incentive program that’s drawing interest from as far away as Brazil. (If other cities in the Tampa Bay area would like a monthly column, give us a ring or email us at email@example.com.)
By Jose Patino, Public Communications Specialist for the city of Clearwater
CLEARWATER – Two months after the launch of the Anchor Tenant Incentive Program, the city of Clearwater’s Community Redevelopment Agency has received more than 100 inquiries from as far away as Brazil to as close to home as Belleair.
“This is very exciting for us,” said Seth Taylor, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency director. “What this tells us is that the business community is very interested in Downtown Clearwater, and this initiative has caught their interest. It demonstrates to us that there is a real strong demand out there from the business community to invest in Downtown Clearwater.”
The Anchor Tenant Incentive Program provides loan-to-grant funding of up to $250,000 to participating property owners and commercial tenants in Downtown Clearwater. The program’s goal is to attract anchor restaurants and brew pubs to Downtown Clearwater with the potential of opening the door for other retailers and entrepreneurs to invest in Downtown Clearwater.
“I think it is going to be transformative for Downtown Clearwater,” Taylor said. “This incentive program is going to provide the tools necessary to bring in some great, young entrepreneurs as well as established and experienced business operators. Together we’re going to drive more people and activity into our downtown, and it’s going to support the existing downtown businesses as well as send a message to other businesses throughout the Tampa Bay area that Downtown Clearwater is a great place to set up shop.”
City staff is reviewing the more than 60 pre-applications it has received for the Anchor Tenant Incentive Program. The focus is on restaurants and brew pubs, but city staff isn’t ruling out businesses that fall out of that category. They are also considering people with a successful business track record and people who have never owned a business but have a fantastic business idea and plan.
While more than 100 inquiries have been received, the application process remains open and the city is eager to hear business proposals that will be a good fit in Downtown Clearwater.
Taylor suggests that people interested in applying in the program should first do research on Downtown Clearwater, which sends a message to city staff that they are serious about locating there. The business owner and representative should also demonstrate that they have additional funding sources to help the business thrive, Taylor said.
“The application is stronger if you have other sources of funding and are not relying solely on the incentive program,” Taylor said. “We need to partner with businesses that have the resources and the capital.”
Program participants can receive a maximum of $250,000 that must be dedicated to interior building improvements. The interior improvements include:
- Americans with Disabilities Act requirements
- Florida Fire Protection Code requirements
- Air conditioning and heating and mechanical upgrades
- Plumbing and electrical improvements
- Structural stabilization including repair and replacement of foundations, footers, load-bearing walls and roofing systems
- Room and space reconfiguration including wall relocation
- Energy efficiency enhancements
The loan-to-grant incentive program can also be used for business start-up costs, including furniture, fixtures and equipment.
The term of the loan is five years from the issuance of a certificate of occupancy. For each year the business is open and operating, 20 percent of the loan will be forgiven. After five years that the business is open and operating, the loan will be forgiven and converted into a grant.
Take a walk through Downtown Clearwater and there’s evidence of a growing restaurant row with international and American fare restaurants populating the district. The city wants to capitalize on that momentum by bringing more restaurants and brew pubs, which will draw more people and businesses to Downtown Clearwater, Taylor said.
“If we can create these places where people want to come, then we anticipate that traditional retailers will follow,” Taylor said.
“We envision Downtown Clearwater and Cleveland Street to be a beautiful strolling street where people can come off the beach,” Taylor said. “Folks from the Tampa Bay area and from Clearwater can come down and spend a few hours down here, check out the different food offerings, go into the art galleries and enjoy a show at the Capitol Theatre.
“This is our vision for Downtown Clearwater, and we think it is an exciting one,” Taylor said.
For information about Downtown Clearwater redevelopment, go to myclearwater.com.
Clearwater | Downtown Clearwater | Business | Anchor Tenant Incentive Program | Redevelopment | Local News
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