Last year in September, a developer submitted new plans for a ten-story condo building in Clearwater, Florida that he’s been transforming for several years. That developer, Moises Agami, is a wealthy Scientologist from Mexico City whose family has donated millions of dollars to the Church of Scientology in recent years. And the building he’s redeveloping is right in the middle of Scientology’s Clearwater campus, just a few blocks from the spiritual center of the worldwide organization.
The changes to Agami’s plans for the building, which are reflected in detailed drawings submitted to the city that we have obtained, show that the structure’s top two floors, which had once been set aside for five separate condo units and a rooftop bar, are now going to be turned into a playpen for someone very wealthy — a double-level penthouse including a private building entrance, a massive nine-car private garage, and even a car elevator.
The Underground Bunker has learned that when a Church of Scientology official was asked by area developers about the changes, the church official admitted that the purchaser of the new super-penthouse is actor Tom Cruise.
Agami submitted those new plans on September 2, 2015, which happened to be at the same time that gung-ho Scientologist Tom Cruise was in the middle of a fire sale of his own properties. Beginning in 2013, Cruise has put at least six expensive dwellings on the market that we know of, and in September 2015, when Agami was submitting his plans, Cruise put up for sale his main residence in Beverly Hills.
In 2013, Cruise put up for sale two New York City properties, a $3 million apartment and a $28 million townhouse. In March 2015 he put two more homes on the market, a Hollywood Hills estate for $13 million, and his Telluride, Colorado compound, at $59 million. In September 2015 he listed his Beverly Hills mansion, which sold for $40 million, and in December he offered his house in southern England, at about $7.4 million.
And the question we kept hearing was, if he’s selling so much, where is he buying?
We first heard the suggestion that he planned to buy something in Clearwater about a year ago (and we weren’t the only ones who heard about it). It was a remarkable suggestion, and one that went along with other signs that Cruise is just as dedicated to Scientology as he’s ever been. Cruise could obviously live anywhere, but it really says something that he’d want to live in the town where the Church of Scientology has its spiritual headquarters — which is also its one truly profitable revenue maker.
Former Scientology official Marc Headley has told us that the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, where wealthy Scientologists must come to pay for certain high-level courses, brings in more money than the rest of Scientology’s worldwide facilities combined. And as Scientology dwindles, with empty facilities around the globe, we’re increasingly seeing signs that more emphasis is being placed on the Clearwater headquarters by church leader David Miscavige at the expense of Scientology’s other destinations. Could Cruise coming home to Clearwater be part of those plans by Miscavige? And is that why his son Connor has been seen living in the area? (Not to mention, it would be nice of Tom to be near his mother, who lives nearby.)
We emailed Moises Agami to ask him about the changes and whether they were for Cruise, and we also sent the same question to international Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw. Neither has responded.
Agami’s plans that he submitted to the city, meanwhile, show that his project has gone through a dramatic change, and with one very wealthy person in mind.
According to Agami’s permit application to the city, the building on the northeast corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue was first built in 1960 as a four-story bank. In 1971, it was expanded to nine floors, and became known as the AmSouth Bank building after its tenant, which left it, planning to make upgrades, in 2008.
That facelift never happened, and the AmSouth building sat empty after 2011 in a downtown that was already on life support. Scientology surreptitiously moved into the town in 1975 under a false name, the “United Churches of Florida,” buying the iconic Fort Harrison Hotel and the Clearwater Bank Building in what was characterized at the time as an invasion. Tension between the church and city has existed ever since as Scientology bought up more and more property and the central district of the city became a dead zone except for the constant flow of “Sea Org” trainees scuttling from building to building or in Scientology buses.
Today, the church owns many properties in the area, calling the overall complex the “Flag Land Base.” And right in the middle of its footprint is the old AmSouth building, which has been renamed “The Skyview” by Moises Agami.
[The Fort Harrison Hotel, on Fort Harrison Avenue, is the spiritual center of Scientology’s “mecca,” the Flag Land Base. A sky bridge connects it to the giant “Flag Building” across the street, which is better known as the “Super Power” building. Wealthy Scientologists who come for expensive upper-level counseling stay at church-owned lodging, like the Sandcastle and the Osceola Inn. Sea Org workers get training at the Coachman building. And a new set of storefronts advertising Scientology’s “social betterment” organizations has opened along Fort Harrison Avenue north of Cleveland Street. Management offices are housed in the West Coast Building, which was recently rededicated.]
In 2006, the AmSouth building became part of a $200 million downtown redevelopment plan by Mexican Scientologist Elias Jafif, who intended to replace the building with a 33-floor condo tower. Six years later, with no progress on those plans, Moises Agami took over the building and announced plans for The Skyview.
Instead of replacing the building, Agami planned to gut it and fill it with 52 condo units, many of them with harbor views. There would be a restaurant and shops on the ground floor, as well as a bar and pool deck on the top, tenth floor. And he planned to keep the old bank vault in the basement and turn it into a “man cave,” with cigars and pool tables and sports on TV.
Saving on teardown and construction, Agami would be able to offer the condo units at between $300,000 and $350,000 for two bedroom, two bath units of about 1,300 square feet. And the look of the project would come from the Mexico City-based architectural firm Gomez Vasquez. In other words, it was intended to be a hip project, not too highly priced, which might actually bring some life to a wheezing downtown.
Moises Agami himself was an “OT,” a high-level Scientologist whose family has quickly become one of the biggest donors in Scientology and the most generous in Latin America.
In 2013, Moises, on the left, was recognized with the rest of the Agami family for reaching the status of “Platinum Meritorious,” which requires cumulative donations to the International Association of Scientologists of $2.5 million.
Just two years later, at the Maiden Voyage celebration in the summer of 2015, the Agamis, this time with Moises in the center, took home a trophy for reaching “Diamond Meritorious with Honors” and about $7 million in donations.
And at last year’s IAS celebration in England, David and Monica Agami represented the family as they took home the big trophy for “Patron Laureate,” which requires a total of $10 million in donations. (And with at least $7.5 million of that coming just in the previous two years.)
This is a family, in other words, that has pumped a lot of money into Scientology’s coffers in a very short period of time. And here is Moises and his wife, earlier this year, celebrating the opening of the new Scientology Media Productions studio in Los Angeles, which eventually is supposed to broadcast Scientology’s message to the world on television and on the Internet.
After announcing his plans for The Skyview in 2012, Agami said he hoped to have it completed in 2014. But delays pushed that back, and its completion date was then set for January 2016. But last year, construction was slowed again when Agami decided to make major changes to the building.
Originally, Agami planned for the ninth floor to contain three condo units, and the tenth floor to contain two units and a bar with a pool deck that he called the Sky Terrace.
On the north side of the building, meanwhile, there would be a simple parking lot, with enough room so each unit in the building would get 1.25 spaces.
In the new plans submitted last year in September, major changes have come to those top two floors and to the parking lot. Now, the overall number of condo units in the building have been reduced from 52 to 40, and the number of parking spaces in the lot is reduced to 45. Over that lot, there will now be a structure connected to the condo building with a sky bridge. This new rendering, of the parking structure, is looking from the same general angle (from the north) as the previous image…
That new parking structure will, on its western half, contain an “amenities” deck — a community pool, a playground for children, and a kids’ club.
But it’s what is on the other side of that wall to the left in that image, on the eastern half of the parking structure, that is really remarkable.
Plans of the building show that it will be a private garage with a car elevator and its own private air bridge into the condo building.
We had to look very carefully at this next drawing to make out that the elevator will carry a car up to a large space marked off with multiple parking spaces (“private enclosed garage”) which leads to a passageway (“private enclosed walkway”) that leads over the air bridge into the condo building.
We wanted to make sure that we were actually seeing what looked like a massive private garage for a single tenant in the building. And then we found it, the description on the drawing itself…
Let that sink in. A nine-car garage, accessed by a car elevator, that is all for a single resident, the owner of the penthouse unit of The Skyview.
Here’s another view showing the two halves of the parking structure, which in this drawing is on the left. We’ve shaded yellow the area that is private and accessed by the car elevator, and that has its own private entrance into the condo building. The brown area and the colored amenities deck is the area accessed by the other tenants in the building…
And here’s a closer look at that private wing in the condo building itself, that leads to the private garage. You can see that there’s a small office lounge, and also a… a flight simulator?
After Top Gun gets in a few laps around the virtual airfield, he can then go up the elevator to the ninth and tenth floors, which have now been transformed into a double-level super penthouse, with pool. We’d love it if one of our tech heads could turn these plans into 3D renderings so we get a better sense of just how posh this place is going to be.
The ninth floor penthouse…
The tenth floor penthouse…
And the small rooftop area…
You can see why Tom might be anxious to move in. But construction has not been swift. We found that Agami did receive a permit approving his changes, but those upper floors don’t look very far along, as you can see in this photo snapped this week for us by Mark Bunker…
And Mark remembered that in the past, before the construction had begun, he managed to get some rooftop footage of the view from the old AmSouth building. So we not only have detailed plans of Tom’s penthouse digs, but we can even show you what he’s going to be looking at from his perch. He’ll get a nice view of the Intracoastal and the Gulf beyond…
But surely, Tom’s heart will skip a beat when he looks south and gazes upon the works of his best man, Scientology leader David Miscavige. What a lovely view of the Fort Harrison Hotel and Super Power!
We think Tom is going to love the place.
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield