Clearwater hopes grant program will turn abysmal business growth

- It is a staggering number -- around 50 percent of the storefronts downtown Clearwater are vacant.

So to turn that around and attract new businesses - the Community Redevelopment Agency is giving out free money in what’s called an anchor incentive program.

“We think this is the right program that will help jump start our local economy,” said Seth Taylor, the program's director.

The CRA will hand out $250,000 loans to key restaurants and breweries looking to set up shop downtown. If the business remains for more than five years, then the loan is forgiven.

The loan-to-grant program is being funded through development money Clearwater gets from the county. There is enough funding to help bring five new businesses to downtown.

“We are thrilled about the response that we’ve gotten,” Taylor said.

The program was announced Monday, and the city says it has already received interest from 20 potential restaurants.

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