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Library renovation paused until Imagine Clearwater final costs are known

Last month, the City Council agreed to close the Main Library effective Sept. 25 so contractors could begin a $4 million renovation of the structure. It was to become the symbolic groundbreaking of Imagine Clearwater, the roughly $64 million plan to redevelop the downtown waterfront into a park with a concert venue, garden and a Bluff walk surrounded by a plaza with housing and retail.

But Thursday, when it came time for the council to give contractors the green light to begin work, the estimate for the library had climbed to $6.4 million with all costs factored in.

“We’ve been hearing for many, many months now that (the contractor) will be able to bring this in under time and under budget and seeing the numbers go up for the library as the first component of this is not a good omen,” said city council member Mark Bunker. “But I think it’s a project that we should continue to commit to, just see what savings we can find.”

Before pursuing the library renovation, the city will now wait to secure more concrete cost estimates for the entire 22-acre Imagine Clearwater project, a design that has been gradually changed by council members over the past few years.

In June, the council voted to move the covered amphitheater from the western edge of the park to the north side, making it so the greenspace of the 22-acre park would no longer be divided by the venue and so the sound will project to the east. But that caused consultants to have to go back to the drawing board on design documents that were nearly complete.

They had already been directed to change directions before in April 2019, when the council voted to replace the uncovered concert bandshell with a 4,000-seat covered amphitheater.

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