Rod Keller fills us in on the latest tug of war between the residents of Clearwater and the Church of Scientology…
On February 6, commissioners for the City of Clearwater, Florida approved the “Imagine Clearwater” plan for the downtown waterfront district. The plan calls for the demolition of City Hall and the Harborview convention center, reworking the waterfront into a concert and event venue. The 50-year-old Harborview has been an eyesore for many years and has failed the original purpose as a convention center. Officials claim that City Hall is unsuitable for its purpose, being too small to house all city departments and too expensive to maintain. Rather than rebuild on the same site officials are leaving the downtown area and building a new City Hall elsewhere.
In 2013 a referendum passed to redevelop the entire site as the new home of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium which had experienced a boom in the aftermath of the movie Dolphin Tale, based on the story of Winter the dolphin who is on display at the aquarium. Scientology began working behind the scenes to oppose the plan and in 2015 the aquarium decided not to pursue that location. Scientology offered to purchase parts of the property in 2016 to develop additional hotel facilities, but that offer was not accepted.
The plan concerns itself with the blocks East of Osceola Avenue, between Drew and Court Streets to the North and South.
What the plan doesn’t really emphasize is that the parcel is surrounded by the Scientology buildings and properties that make up the “Flag Land Base,” the “spiritual mecca” of Scientology, which arrived in Clearwater surreptitiously in 1975.
In this view, with north at top, the area that the city wants to redevelop is on the left, near the bridge, and you can see that it’s surrounded by Scientology’s key properties, including the Fort Harrison Hotel and Flag Building, as well as the Skyview, a private condominium project whose double penthouse is reportedly being developed for Tom Cruise so he can live right in the middle of Scientology’s mecca.
Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw told the Tampa Bay Times this week that despite Scientology’s offer on the properties, Scientology has no plans to expand in downtown, which is provably untrue. Funds are being raised for L. Ron Hubbard Hall, a space to hold Scientology’s events and a museum to the founder.
The plans include an open space, seen here in front of the Hall on the right and the Flag building to the left. The open space will feature 21 monoliths representing the 21 precepts of the booklet The Way to Happiness by L. Ron Hubbard, and a globe representing planetary clearing, which is the stated purpose of Scientology, to become the dominant philosophy on Earth. The planned site is between Court and Franklin Streets west of Fort Harrison Ave. Scientology also holds property north of the Sandcastle that could be developed into more hotel space for visiting Scientologists.
A Scientology magazine predicted that by the year 2000 Clearwater would be recognized as the first Scientology city. Many years later that prediction is coming true. The church is planning a large event hall, it owns numerous hotels, restaurants, an energy plant, parking garages, warehouses, a fleet of buses and vans, apartment complexes and condominium towers. It has a large security force, it operates schools and tutoring centers. There are Scientology doctors, dentists, chiropractors and a new drug rehab center.
At the same time as City Hall is relocated from the downtown area, city officials believe they can ignore the Scientology dominance and revitalize the district. From the Tampa Bay Times:
Still, none of the five City Council members said they believe Scientology’s substantial presence is a relevant factor in strategizing for revitalization or recruiting private investment. If the city can reshape downtown’s waterfront into a viable attraction, they say, the business community will follow.
“We’re trying to draw people downtown regardless of the elephant in the room,” said council member Hoyt Hamilton. “If you put the right project down there, people are going to come no matter what.”
This is far from the first plan for the waterfront area. Before the aquarium plan was conceived, an abandoned 2004 plan for the area proposed building a monorail to connect downtown with the popular Clearwater Beach tourist areas. These plans fail because Scientology works behind the scenes to oppose them and because Scientology creates an unwelcoming area without shops and restaurants open to the public.
If the Imagine Clearwater plan fails and the concert venue becomes the next white elephant for downtown Clearwater, there is only one party poised to bail them out and purchase more land along the waterfront – the Church of Scientology. The church’s plan is to oppose downtown revitalization, to continue expansion, and to cement Clearwater’s status as the first Scientology city.
— Rod Keller
HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.
Scientology disconnection, a reminder
Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,661 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,258 days.
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Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,085 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,060 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 416 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,718 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 825 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,227 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,100 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 681 days.
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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
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