Clearwater residents to vote on referendum to revitalize waterfront

- Tony Starova wishes his pizza place was always busy, but in downtown Clearwater, he's only full on weekends.

"We need other venues to bring people down here and to be like a normal downtown," he said. "Now we need to act."

City leaders agree.

"We are at a standstill," said Mayor George Cretekos.

Right now, city rules say they can't even entertain the prospect of a business opening at either the slips, the library, or nearby.

"(We need to make) it an experience for you to come and enjoy, not just when we have a jazz holiday, not just when we have John and Mary Kay Wilson singing with us at the Fourth of July."

Thursday night, commissioners agreed that city residents should vote on a referendum in March on a plan that would hopefully turn boat slips into money magnets.

The referendum suggests boat and paddle board rentals, water taxis, boat tours, an improved amphitheater, and even a restaurant at the library.

"We are not sure that any of them will happen," said Cretekos. "But unless we get the permission to do it, we can't get a businessman to say 'hey, I want to do this.'"

Starova remembers when things were much worse, like during the 2008 recession, but he says it's time for downtown to really get its groove back.

"We have to consider that this is everybody's downtown," he said. "Even the people in Countryside, they have to think this is their downtown too. We have to support it."

The referendum will be held on March 15th.

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