Downtown Clearwater stakeholders got a preview of Scientology leader David Miscavige’s retail and entertainment plan for the area during an invitation-only presentation at the Fort Harrison Hotel Tuesday.
Scientology spokesperson Ben Shaw denied media requests to attend the meeting, reports Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times.
The two-hour presentation included the church’s plan to pay for new facades for stores on the stretch of Cleveland Street between Osceola and Myrtle avenues, as well as the organization’s use of consultants to bring business owners on board for the plan.
Well-known Scientologist celebrities John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Kirstie Alley and pianist Chick Corea were also at the event.
“Sitting there and watching this just stunned everybody,” Signworx owner Leif Oskarsoon said of the video and renderings. “It was so gorgeous.”
Miscavige said the plan would cost $8 million on top of the $30 million the church has already put into the plan through hiring consultants and buying up tracts of land in the area.
Former Mayor Frank Hibbard said the Scientology leader implied the crux of the plan was the church’s ability to buy a 1.4-acre lot owned by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
The aquarium turned down a $15 million offer from the church and offered to sell it to the city for $4.25 million, with a vote from the City Council expected on April 20.
“It comes down to execution and commitment and the way the city and the church are right now, I think some things have to change,” Hibbard said. “There’s trust issues with all parties involved. And I think to make something like that work, I don’t know if you can overcome them. I think the church needs to show the public the plan and let the court of public opinion really drive whether this is viable or not.”