In Clearwater, Florida, just west of Tampa Bay, a planned new public park has been designed to better connect the city’s downtown with its urban waterfront along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Called Imagine Clearwater, the $64.5 million, city-owned project will expand a small, existing green space known as Coachman Park into a 24-acre destination filled with recreational amenities ranging from a children’s play area with pop-jet water fountains to an outdoor performance band shell and stage that will feature covered seating beneath a tensile fabric roof for 4,000 people and lawn seating for another 10,000 or so attendees, notes Hamid Sahebkar, P.E., a principal and senior project manager in the Tampa office of the international engineering firm Stantec.

The Imagine Clearwater project will convert a large existing parking lot into new green spaces and construct a new band shell with covered seating for 4,000 people. (Rendering courtesy of Stantec)

Stantec is responsible for the project’s civil and structural engineering; mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering; architecture; interior design; landscape architecture; coastal resiliency analysis; and construction administration services. Skanska USA is the project’s construction manager.

Work on the site’s utilities has already begun, says Sahebkar, and the park’s expected completion date is roughly at the end of summer 2023.

Underlying utilities

The Imagine Clearwater park is being constructed along the city’s western waterfront, on a property that once housed a department store, now demolished, and which still includes the store’s roughly 6-acre surface parking lot. There is a small existing band shell that will be replaced by the much larger new structure. In addition, there are a few existing paths and some tennis courts, among other amenities. A public library building is adjacent to the park property.

The new park will be constructed adjacent to the Clearwater Memorial Causeway bridge, which crosses the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to connect the city to Clearwater Beach. (Rendering courtesy of Stantec)

The site’s eastern border features a relatively large change in elevation for a region that is otherwise mostly flat — a roughly 20 ft tall bluff separates the park area from Clearwater’s downtown, Sahebkar notes. A city marina is located nearby, and the overall site lies in the shadow of the Clearwater Memorial Causeway bridge that carries State Road 60 and pedestrian walkways across the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to connect the city to Clearwater Beach.

The heavily developed areas of Clearwater Beach present challenges to the Imagine Clearwater project because all the utilities that provide electricity, water, natural gas, sewage, and other services to the hotels, restaurants, and various facilities on the beach pass under the site of the new park, explains Sahebkar. A few such lines have been relocated, he adds, but for the most part the park’s facilities had to be designed to avoid these underground obstacles.

At the same time, the park will also take advantage of the presence of the utilities, connecting into the existing lines for the park facility’s power, sanitary sewage, and natural gas needs, for instance. Likewise, the city plans to take advantage of the construction on the site to replace an existing lift station and force main that have reached the end of their useful service lives, Sahebkar adds.

Up and down

The site is currently accessed primarily by automobile, Sahebkar says, but most of the existing parking lot will be replaced with new green spaces. The goal is to improve pedestrian and public transit access, he adds.

To accomplish this, for example, a stepped promenade will lead people down from a new gateway plaza entrance along the bluff, and there are plans for improved bus and trolley service to the site. Fountains and other water features will re-create, at least in spirit, the natural springs that once existed in the area, and walls and other spaces along the bluff walk route will be available for murals and other artistic creations.

Park amenities will include a children’s play area with pop-jet water fountains. (Rendering courtesy of Stantec)

A new connection to an existing ramp will also be constructed to help pedestrians access the causeway and the beach, and a new pedestrian access to a water taxi landing is also planned. In addition, an improved connection will be established between the park and the library building, Sahebkar says.

Storms and sustainability

To help protect the site from flooding caused by storms or sea level rise, most of the park will sit at least 1 to 2 ft above the current or proposed Federal Emergency Management Agency required elevations, Sahebkar says. The area around the band shell, on the north end of the park, will be raised even higher, sloping roughly 6 ft up from the water’s edge to accommodate a secondary line of defense in the form of a buried steel sheet pile wall, roughly 13 ft tall, designed to protect the area against erosion. A similar wall will be buried around two new structures toward the south end of the park that will serve as a dockmaster building for the marina and restrooms for park visitors; an existing, smaller dock building will be converted into park offices, Sahebkar says.

A roughly 1.5-acre freshwater artificial lake is planned south of the dockmaster building, primarily for stormwater treatment, Sahebkar notes. But the lake will also feature a walking path, pedestrian bridge, and fountains to make it another park attraction.

Bioswales for stormwater conveyance will be located throughout the site, he adds, and other sustainability-oriented features will include electric vehicle charging stations and solar panels to help power the park’s facilities.