New Name, New Vision, New Life
Major companies along I-75 and I-4 are being targeted,
their employees enticed with discounts on lodging and dining.
president of Travel
Resort Services and
a key player among
has a favorite beach. Some might
prefer the touristy atmosphere and wide
sand of Clearwater Beach, others the
more secluded shores of Redington, or the
public access of Fort DeSoto Park. What folks
in Pinellas County have lacked is a common
way of referring to their beaches.
not su-prising, considering there are 11 communities along
the 27 miles of beach. For years, area chambers of commerce
referred to the strip as Floridas Gulf Beaches.
But considering that every beach from Marco Island in southwest
Florida to Destin in the Panhandle could be considered a Gulf
beach, that didnt really carve out a viable brand.
ago somebody came up with a>
better tourist trap: Tampa Bay Beaches. The
name irked traditionalists who hate anything
that lumps the communities of Pinellas under
the vague umbrella of Tampa Bay anything.
And technically, it doesnt include Clearwater
Beach, which operates an independent
chamber of commerce. But the truth is that
the nation knows the region as Tampa Bay,
for better or worse, city limits be darned. And
theres no arguing with results, either.
first year of marketing the Tampa Bay Beaches under
the aegis of the newly dubbed Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber
of Commerce name recognition was nothing less
new Web site is hugely successful, says Beaches Chamber
President and CEO Debbie Stambaugh. We went from 42,000
page-views two years earlier as gulfbeaches. com and hit a
record high in January 2003 with 1.6 million hits triple
the best month we ever had before. We know that was a good
move for us. The new Web address www.tampabay
those visitors were no doubt drawn by the Buccaneers
winning appearance in the Super Bowl Tampa Bay was
being talked about everywhere.
chamber includes 10 beach communities and two mainland com-munities.
Count Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst among those in favor of
the brand name change. People come to our beaches,
he says. They may know the Tampa name better. You use
whats to your advantage.
changing the brand was just the start of a new approach to
marketing the beaches. Not that events gave the chamber much
choice; 9/11 put a huge dent in the traditional European,
Canadian and Midwest loyalties to the area. More recently,
the con-vergence of war in Iraq, skyrocketing gas prices and
a struggling economy have shaken tourism, Pinellas Countys
top industry. Keeping our share of the market is a chal-lenge,
show that the drive market people who live within a
days drive of Tampa Bays beaches represents
an important target. That meant reaching out to potential
visitors as far north as Atlanta and convincing visitors to
Orlandos theme parks to commit a portion of their vacation
to the gentle beaches of the west coast.
local meetings and conventions to Tampa Bay Beaches is equally
important. A section of our Web site is designed to
attract corporate business, says Stambaugh. Were
working with large corporations in the area to establish relationships
with them. Resorts such as the Don CeSar (www.doncesar.com)
and TradeWinds (www.tradewindsresort.com) in St. Pete Beach
offer a unique setting for conventions and business meetings,
with the beach just steps beyond their facilities. Batting
cleanup to the chambers efforts is the St. Petersburg/Clearwater
Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Its Web site (www.floridas-beach.com)
provides details on the meeting space of resorts dotting the
Pinellas coastline information that can be requested
by location, by maximum meeting size handled and by hotel
chamber is maximizing this corporate connection to also recruit
tourists. It targets human resource directors at major companies
along Interstates 4 and 75, the highways that feed the Tampa
IS WORK? A newly refreshed room at the TradeWinds,
a resort popular for blending conferences, meetings
at Publix Super Markets in
Lakeland, Shands Hospital in Gainesville and
Winn Dixie in Jacksonville, for example, are
enticed with discounts on lodging and dining.
Our intent is to build a relationship with
these people, Stambaugh says. A lot of the
HR departments go out and find benefits such
as these to offer their employees.
step will be in the development
of a pass-coded area of the chambers Web
site where employees of these companies
will find hot deals crafted especially for them.
Another potentially lucrative project:
tourism with St. Petersburg, Russia. The minister
of tourism and another official recently
visited as guests of the beaches chamber. St.
Petersburg, Russia, has a population of 6 million,
25 percent of whom are affluent by
Western standards. They take one solid
month annually for vacation.
destination of the moment is
Thailand, Stambaugh says. I asked the minister, Why Thailand? He said, Because
Thailand wanted us. But now were ready for
flight from St. Petersburg, Russia,
to Thailand takes 12 hours; a direct flight to
the Tampa Bay beaches would take roughly
nine hours. Its a long shot, admits
Stambaugh, adding: You have to think out of
the box now.
Beach s Fresh Look
Johns Pass Village & Boardwalk is an eclectic collection
of beach shops, restaurants and casual attitudes that represents
a focal point of commercial activity along the Tampa Bay beaches.
Two developers are pumping a fresh dose of adrenaline and
a lot of cash into the beach with new projects book-ending
it to the north and south.
Bay (www.trsinc.com) was
the first project announced. Developed by local resident Sam
Lewis Ameris Realty and mar-May keted by Travel Resort
Services (TRS), it is a $50-million mixed-use project that
will consume two city blocks at the north end. To say that
the community is ready for Madeira Bay might be an understatement.
When we went before the board of adjustment for variances,
says TRS co-owner Joe Jorgensen, people were actually
clapping. The first phase of construction, which is
already underway, consists of 13 townhomes. Eight sold before
development began. Construction plans include a 30- to 40-unit
condominium, 10,000 square feet of retail space and a 90-room
condotel, a new hybrid of condos and hotels. Twenty
percent of our condos are already spoken for, says Doreen
Moore, owner and president of TRS and the current board chair
of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.
south end of Johns Pass Village, one
of the citys best-known families is preparing
to invest $15 million in another project that
shows confidence in the communitys.
Hubbard Enterprises plans to build a three-story,
400-car parking garage on Gulf Blvd. It
will have ground-floor retail and a 28-room
family has put our hearts and souls
into this, says Patricia Hubbard, chief financial
officer for Hubbard Enterprises. But its
also scary; all our eggs are in this basket.
Hubbard says that her family was inspired,
as were the developers of Madeira Bay, by
the citys new master plan.
the boardwalk renovations by the
city, the timing is right, interest rates being
what they are, Hubbard says. From Madeira
Bay to us will define the beach in the years to
parking structure is complete (construction is expected to
start in August), Hubbard Enterprises (www.hubbardsmarina.com)
intends to rebuild some of the buildings it owns west of the
Friendly Fisherman restaurant along the boardwalk. Why is
so much new construction being announced in Madeira Beach
now? Why not now? replies City Manager Jim Madden.
The city has positioned itself. We developed a master
plan that addresses rede-velopment and how wed like
to see our community advance in the next 10, 15 and 20 years.
of Clearwater Beach
Once upon a time, in the vacation wonderland of Clearwater
Beach, a hideous traffic monster known with great disdain
as the roundabout induced much foul language from
drivers. The roundabout is improved now and its legacy is
at long last a positive one.
CASTLE A rendering of Madeira Bay, a $50-million,
mixed-use project that will shape the north face of Madeira
city took a lot of heat for the round-about,
says Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst.
But the entryway to Clearwater Beach
spurred economic development. It brought in
two large condominium projects that took out
Cole, executive director of the
Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce,
says this is an exciting time. Were putting a
whole new face on Clearwater Beach. The
city is putting in fantastic amenities, wider
sidewalks, sidewalk cafes, beautiful landscap-ing.
This is a much-needed facelift.
and Cole say a slew of new developments
are in the works for their beach:
JMC Communities of St. Petersburg is the operating partner
of Belle Harbor (www.belleharbor.com),
a 200-condominium project on Mandalay Avenue.
A meandering beachwalk/road is planned for the south beach.
This one-way street with 15-foot sidewalks is designed to
encourage sidewalk cafes. On the opposite side of the street,
bike and jogging paths will be added.
The owner of the Days Inn has plans to renovate that resort.
The Holiday Inn SunSpree recently
approached us about re-doing their resort,
Aungst says. Theyve already put millions
into it, but its still a 50-year-old building.
and density variances are serious
issues along the beaches. Residents tell the
mayor, We dont want another Sand Key,
which is localspeak for a beach that can no
longer be seen because of all the towering
condominiums along the shore.
Beach is a built-out communi-ty,
Aungst says. You need to go up a little
bit, 100 to 150 feet. People are concerned
were going to wall off their beach. Were
keeping view corridors. There are a lot of
things on the bubble to be approved.
One is Bluewater Isle (www.bluewater-isle.
com), a proposal that stirs Clearwaters
mayor to poetry. It dresses up a worn-down
area of old motels, Aungst says.
four blocks and 1,700 feet of
intercoastal waterfront, the $350-million luxury
condominium and retail complex is like
nothing ever built on the beach. Local developer
Bob Metz says Bluewater Isle conforms
to and, in many ways, takes advantage of the
Clearwaters Beach by Design vision of the
communitys future. He sees upscale condominiums
in the air above the street and an
inviting ground level with shopping, restaurants
and a 250-slip marina.
local, born and bred in Clearwater,
Metz says. I understand the value of having
a boardwalk along the water. Its a destination.
Tourists love to see these things.
is confident that he can sell his product in todays
difficult market. In fact, he already has. In the first two
hours that he offered units for sale, 24 sold at prices ranging
from $700,000 to $2 million. The amenities dont hurt,
of course: floor-to-ceiling will reveal stunning vistas of
Clearwater Harbour or the Gulf of Mexico. And for anyone
who tires of Mother Nature, plasma screen TVs will drop from
the ceilings. All units will be accessible from private elevators.
Madeira Beach, the developers have
enjoyed an unusually warm reception from
beach residents. Weve had four or five
standing ovations (at city meetings), Metz
says. This project takes care of 10 acres they
really want redeveloped.
St. Pete Beach isnt seeing the same new
construction opportunities that Madeira
Beach and Clearwater Beach are, which is
why City Manager Mike Bonfield says the
time is right for a redevelopment plan. We
look at sections of the city that havent prospered
and which should get improvements,
he says. Thats a big planning project.
for the district is already under
way, as Blind Pass Road expands from two
lanes to five. And a substantial property in St.
Pete Beach did get a major sprucing up last
year. The TradeWinds Island Resort completed
an $8-million renovation of its 585 guest-rooms.
wanted to make a splash this
year, says Susan Kennedy, director of creative
services for the resort. This was a great
new way to market the property.
Another new way? How about an animated
billboard promoting sunny beaches in
Manhattans Times Square during a winter
storm. We knew it would be bitter cold that
week, Kennedy says. It made the phone
ring. And a lot of people went to the Web
site; we noticed a spike in hits.