In one of its biggest purchases in years, the Church of Scientology has added 5 acres to its already defining downtown Clearwater presence.
"One parcel is notable in Clearwater history. Rock singer Jim Morrison lived with his grandparents for a year in a little house on the water in the early 1960s while attending St. Petersburg College."
"Scientology now has 29 properties in Clearwater, most downtown."
"South of the just-purchased Triangle property is the seven-story Ocean View condo building, which the church bought in 2006 for $7.8-million. Plans call for remaking the Ocean View, formerly called the Belvedere, into 23 luxury, extended-stay units for visiting Scientologists. Remodeling cost: up to $6-million."
"Just south of the Belvedere and also on the water is Scientology's now-sprawling Sandcastle complex, a mix of hotel rooms and training quarters. Once a small, privately owned tourist hotel, the Sandcastle has been in church hands for decades and expanded many times."
"Now it's overtaxed, officials say, so plans call for a six-story, 60,000 expansion to be built on a vacant lot abutting the recently purchased land."
"Early this year, Scientology opened its latest hotel for visiting church members, the Oak Cove complex on downtown's south side. It offers high-end overnight stays after a $26-million renovation."
"In April, the church also started $30-million in renovations to its well-known Fort Harrison Hotel, which will have 220 rooms."
"In all, current church expansion and remodeling projects will give Scientology 725 guest rooms in downtown Clearwater."