The New Coachman Park and The Sound Music Venue05-20-24 | Feature

The New Coachman Park and The Sound Music Venue

Clearwater, Florida
by Staff

Developed as an $84M project, Coachman Park, set on the waterfront of Clearwater, Florida, measures 24 acres. The goal was to convert what was mostly a surface parking lot into a destination for the people of Clearwater. 3D renderings were successfully used during public meetings to communicate the design intent for city commissioners and public buy-in on the park design. A key part of the park program features the work of local artists throughout the site, including on concrete walls.
Twelve acres of new park greenspace were created in this endeavor. Throughout the design process the team, which included Stantec, a multidisciplinary firm who provided landscape architecture, architecture, engineering, and interior design services, worked with city staff and the construction manager - Skanska USA Building - to help refine the $80 million construction budget, resolve constructability issues before work started, and schedule the workflow. Their roles also included civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering, as well as coastal resiliency analysis.
The Gateway Plaza is the main entrance from Clearwater's main street and provides views of the park and the bay beyond. Cascading water features were designed to reference the springs that once were on the site. The foot traffic pattern then continues to the lower plaza, which is the central hub where visitors arrive from the plaza or the adjacent ride-share drop-off zone. In the distance is the site's Great Lawn.
The dry play area features a central climbing structure that has a nautical theme, such as the safety surfaces which were specified to represent the waterfront setting with sand areas for play. This destination playground features multiple activities that are accessible for an inclusive play environment. The aerial crawl tube acts as a gateway to the play area. The play structures were supplied by Landscape Structures.
On the lower plaza is an interactive pop-jet fountain that features multiple seating plinths and access to the larger dry outdoor play area. At night, the interactive fountain is designed to take on a whole new character as the jets and lighting effects provide an orchestrated experience for children and adults.
A key feature of the bayside promenade is five iconic torchiers located at the focus of the great lawn. These are custom-fabricated stainless-steel structures. The torchiers are inspired by the root systems of native Mangrove vegetation and allow for interactive lighting. Each torchier is topped with a gas-fired cauldron. They ring around a bayside walkway that provides access to the city marina and features a waterfront promenade with seating areas for views of the water and the barrier island beyond.
The Sound, a new, open-air, outdoor amphitheater that touts state-of-the-art facilities is one of the main draws at the park. It features 4,000 covered seats and room for another 5,000 on a sloped lawn.
The Wildflower Garden in the middle of the park features mostly native trees, palms, and groundcovers with a crushed shell pathway and informal seating.
Designed to reflect a passive natural setting, the south portion of the park features an elevated boardwalk over a retention pond lagoon with native aquatics. There are also picnic shelters for visitors to use.

Stantec provided architecture and interior design; landscape architecture; civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering; coastal resiliency analysis; and construction administration services for the project.
The reimagined park creates an enhanced sense of place and community. It features 12 acres of new park greenspace, a nautical-themed playground, an interactive pop jet splash pad, a wildflower garden, walking and biking trails, and local artwork, creating a sense of place and community.

Distinctive lighting includes custom-designed stainless-steel torchiers with programmed lighting effects. The design of the torchiers was inspired by native mangrove trees.

More Improvements
A new amphitheater, the Sound, is an outdoor music venue with an overall capacity of 9,000. This includes 4,000 covered seats in an open-air arena and an additional 5,000 on the sloped lawn with a state-of-the-art stage and green room facilities to attract top touring groups.

The venue will host year-round performances with a backdrop of memorable waterfront sunsets. The Sound, and the entire park, will be a major economic driver for Clearwater.

Looking Back
Previously, the 24-acre site was mostly a surface parking lot and under-utilized green space that hosted a yearly jazz festival. When the city did an initial master plan study and economic impact analysis, they determined the site was a prime location to create an urban bayfront destination like none other on Florida's West Coast and be a catalyst for downtown economic development.

Forward Momentum
The result of that study led to Stantec winning an RFP to confirm the master plan study and provide community engagement to help receive the city council's approval.

Once the master plan was approved, Stantec were engaged to provide complete design documentation from SDs to CDs, permitting, and construction administration. This included full services for landscape architecture and from their in-house teams for architecture, interior design, civil, MEP, structural engineering, and sustainability.


Other consultants worked on theater design, aquatic engineering, and
acoustic engineering.

The development of Coachman Park has helped make it an inclusive destination for Clearwater's residents and visitors alike.

Key program and guest experience elements include a destination playground, a civic gateway plaza that connects the park to the city's main street downtown, connectivity to existing transit options and ride-share programs, a wildflower garden area, a large lawn for passive recreational use, a bay walk promenade to connect the park to the water and existing city marina, a dock master facility, public restrooms, and the new performance venue.

Other park design elements that make this destination such a hit include the incorporation of public art pieces that were first screened by the city's art director. This led to creating locations to place concrete "art walls," leaving building facades intentionally blank to support artist compositions, and outdoor sculpture locations throughout the park.

Another distinctive feature that was identified through historic research of the site was that at one time natural springs flowed from the site's upper bluff area down to the bay. This idea was captured in concept at the gateway plaza with a re-imagined "spring" water feature that flows downward to the park through a series of cascading fountain basins.

Addressing the Environment
The park location on the bay called for resilient solutions and includes many sustainable design and engineering features. Some such features include roof PV panels, EV charging stations, native landscape, bioswales, and the use of energy-efficient materials.

Based on the natural capital analysis of the park, the park will achieve net zero carbon emissions within 20 years. Beyond 2043, the park is predicted to be climate-positive, meaning it will capture and store more carbon per foot than it releases into the atmosphere.

Over its 50-year lifespan, it is estimated that Coachman Park will capture 1,647 tons more carbon than it emits. Resilient design elements include wave attenuation structures, material selections, and strategic building placements. Additionally, to protect the city's investment, Coachman Park is above the current FEMA requirements to mitigate flood risk and account for sea level rise.

The Hits Keep Coming
"I've traveled all over the world and there is nothing like the new Coachman Park anywhere else," says Clearwater mayor Brian J. Aungst Sr. "Every time I get to come to the new park, I am amazed at how great the views and amenities are here. No detail was overlooked in the design, and I, for one, am happy to be able to bring my grandkids to enjoy the playground and splashpad. I also know they will be able to bring their kids here in the future since it was designed with resiliency and sustainability in mind."

"Our team is passionate about the value and enjoyment Coachman Park will bring to the community. Having this project in our backyard and seeing it come to life after years of hard work is incredibly rewarding," states Greg Meyer, Stantec principal and project manager. "We're grateful to the City of Clearwater and Skanska for their partnership throughout design and construction. We're all eager for the public to come out and enjoy the reimagined Coachman Park for
decades to come."

Since opening in June 2023, the new park has become one of the region's most
unique destinations.

Owner - City of Clearwater
Architect of Record: Stantec
Landscape Architect - Stantec
Civil Engineer - Stantec
Construction Manager - Skanska USA Building
Theater Designer - Schuler Shook
Acoustical Consultant - Siebein Associates
Owner's Representative - InVision Advisors