A New Landmark Comes to Life
The combined efforts of Gulf architectual and construction firms enter final
|On average, the Flag Building will be used daily by
about 1,600 parishioners receiving ministerial training or counseling, along with
1,200 staff to service them.
Driving north into Clearwater on Fort Harrison Avenue, the building appears
suddenly on the horizon through the greenery — its red-tile Mediterranean roof
and golden stucco gleaming in the sun.
It unquestionably has become the most prominent structure in downtown Clearwater,
and when it is completed in just over a year, it will be the largest building
in Pinellas County at 380,000 square feet, comprising 889 rooms on six floors.
A lighted Scientology cross will top the building's highest tower, 150 feet from
Nearing final stages of construction, the new Flag Building, directly across
from the Fort Harrison Hotel and connected by way of a skywalk, is the new religious
center for the Church of Scientology in downtown Clearwater. Its name comes from
the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization — "Flag" deriving from the
nautical term "flagship," or lead vessel. The name is a suitable one as this Church
of Scientology in Clearwater is the international spiritual headquarters of the
religion and the largest Church of Scientology in the world. Certain advanced
services in the Scientology religion are only available at Flag.
For parishioners, the new building brings the promise of a greatly expanded
availability of the services they come here to partake in from around the world.
"A Good Fit With the City"
Designed by Tampa architectural firm Helmuth, Obata and Kassabaum in the Mediterranean
Revival style, the exterior reflects the same classic appearance as the Fort Harrison
itself, owned by the Church of Scientology since the mid-1970s, and fully restored
by the Church to its original beauty. The interior of the Flag building will echo
the Mediterranean theme with the use of tile, wood, wicker and stone, comfortable
lounges and coffee bars. Two large skylights will bring natural light to the inner
rooms of the building, and verandas and balconies will enable guests to enjoy
the Florida weather.
The new building will be "a good fit with the City of Clearwater. It's handsomely
detailed, both exterior and interior. It has a level of detail not normally seen
in these kinds of buildings," said Alan Temple, architect in charge of the project.
Helmuth, Obata and Kassabaum have also designed such well-known projects as the
new Tampa Federal Court and the Raymond James Stadium.
The Flag building has materialized from the architectural designs as the result
of a combined effort of many Gulf professionals and firms.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the structure at the end of 1998 was followed
by 10 months of preliminary construction, involving excavation of the basement,
dewatering of the earth, and the installation of tons of steel to reinforce the
building's foundation — and a massive concrete pour. Five hundred and fifty-six
men contracted under South Downs Concrete donned hard hats beginning at 4 a.m.
on a hot day in August 1999, for a non-stop, 16-hour-long pour of 18,000 tons
of concrete into more than 900 tons of steel.
The result was a cement foundation for the subsequent construction and interiors
which involve, among many other details, one million pounds of limestone floor
tile, 180 miles of electrical wiring and five miles of carpet.
A Lasting Asset for Clearwater
Construction has been going vertical since the basement substructure was in
place. Beers Construction Company, an Atlanta-based firm with offices in Tampa,
was contracted to construct the shell and core of the facility.
"With a project this massive, we are fortunate to have so many excellent local
firms involved," said Steve Varrall, the Church's project manager for the new
building. Quality Steel, Puleos Concrete and Walter P. Moore Structural Engineers
were among other Tampa firms mentioned by Varrall as having done superior quality
work on the construction so far.
As the exterior of the building nears completion, work will be started on the
interiors, and will take about a year to complete. Varrall said that most of the
interior walls, painting, carpet-laying and interior design work will be done
by parishioners, who want to contribute to their new building.
"The building will be as beautiful inside as it is outside. In 50 or 100 years
from now, it will still be a classic," said Varrall. "And it will always be an
asset to downtown Clearwater."
While construction of the Flag Building in the 200 block of South Fort Harrison
is ongoing, members of the community are invited to see a unique view of the work-in-progress
from the 10th floor of the Fort Harrison Hotel, as part of hotel tours. Call (727)
467-6860 for more information.