Wednesday, 1 August 2012

St. Pete booms,Clearwater decays.

Posted by don Carlo on OCMB:

St. Pete booms, Clearwater decays.

St. Pete is building and bustling during my visit to non-Scientology relatives. In the warm January sunset, I saw new building after new building in what used to be sleepy old downtown St. Pete. The buildings are now a well-built, satisfying mixture of Spanish colonial and 21st century urban design. One complex, Bay Walk, was so inviting you just want to jump out of the car and explore it. It also feels safe and walkable, like you'd want to live nearby and walk your dog through it for fun each day. The marinas had been greatly enlarged and were bristling with acres of goddamn YACHTS. I could hardly believe my eyes.

Downtown Clearwater, in my youth, was the classier downtown, with a sweet palm-tree-lined curving road coming into a bright, successful looking medium-sized downtown. Downtown Clearwater then poured into a dramatic (for Florida) bridge straight to Clearwater Beach, which was the hot spot where the teenagers hung out. Downtown St. Pete in my youth seemed the poorer step-sister, with its frumpy low-rent retirement hotels. Downtown St. Pete had to overcome it's 25-minute driving distance from the "real beaches" on St. Pete Beach (on the Gulf of Mexico side of the peninsula). And Clearwater Beach was "better" than St. Pete Beach (and still is). So, if not for Scientology, Clearwater would have become the playground for family-oriented kinda-quiet funseekers WITH MONEY.* It would have impressive new condos filling up, and shopping and entertainment complexes. Instead, Scientology has scared away the people with money. Downtown Clearwater has hardly any business and merchants, and hardly any fun. While Scientology tries to get its people into Clearwater government and politics, once they get there they find a shrinking pie. Any CoS leaders who sputter that CoS has built this building and that building, I challenge you to drive to Bay Walk and compare Scientology's buildings and cheerless street scenes with BayWalks's ambience and bustle. Plus, the St. Pete buildings are definitely higher quality and better maintained, and have no gaping holes like the Super Power Building. I dined out at Harvey's 4th Street Grill and Carrabba's and for both, the food was great and the places friendly, charming, and packed with diners. St. Pete feels successful now.

Luckily, beautiful Clearwater Beach is a different city than Clearwater, and is still a fun place to visit. But if homebuyers want to have a city center to go to for concerts, a little drinking and fun, AND see their investment pay off, they'd do better buying real estate in St. Pete.

*The wild drinking and nightclub spots are still in Tampa. Tampa party animals think St. Pete is too family-oriented and retirement-oriented to get stinking drunk; St. Pete people think Tampa is raucous and crime-ridden. That said, Bay Walk and other areas finally are attracting young people to downtown St. Pete for food, drink, music, and fun.

Flubless,Flawless,and Flunk!

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