In 2014 the Urban Land Institute (ULI) completed a thorough analysis of downtown Clearwater and stated emphatically that the city and the Church of Scientology must become partners in a downtown renaissance. Otherwise nothing would happen.
For its part, the Church simply asked the city not to interfere with its decade-long desire to purchase a vacant lot of underutilized land that directly adjoins one of its retreats. That would complete the Church’s downtown campus, city leaders were told. Clearwater officials told the Church they would not interfere if the Church aided redevelopment of downtown. The Church stepped forward with both plans and funding that would transform downtown Clearwater and create a true City-Church partnership the ULI mandated in their analysis.
Some Clearwater city officials have feigned concern that they have not been privy to the plans by the Church of Scientology for downtown revitalization, which the Church offered in partnership. Yet, the Mayor, every member of the City Council, the City Manager—as well as 75 business and civic leaders—witnessed extensive documents and a 10-minute video that in words and graphic presentations made clear what the Church envisioned.
The video Mr. Miscavige presented to the political and civic leaders depicted the “before” and “after” of a sweeping downtown renovation. The facades of both sides of four blocks would be stylishly renovated. A five-acre cinema and entertainment center would be built. A historic building on Fort Harrison Avenue would become a world-class nightclub.
Having spent $30 million just to get the multifaceted program underway, the Church was willing to underwrite the renovation of six downtown city blocks. The Church insisted it did not desire to manage or direct the commercial ventures but simply provide the wherewithal for a revitalized downtown.
The partnership was crystal clear—noninterference by the city in the Church’s purchase of a property the city had never before expressed an interest in, and the Church would carry out its part of renovating the downtown. This was the proposed partnership that the Tampa Bay Times torpedoed with its vitriolic and false reporting.