Scientology Building Plans Move Forward

Source: St. Petersburg Times
Date: October 30, 1995

A long-delayed construction project that would dramatically change the downtown landscape is back on schedule, according to a city memo.

Construction of the Church of Scientology's Super Power building is expected to begin in late spring, said the memo from Scott Shuford, the city's top planning official. Shuford said he and another planner recently met with Scientology officials.

The organization announced the building in 1991 as part of a $38-million renovation and construction program in Clearwater. The last construction start was planned for March 1994, but Scientology decided to complete some renovation first.

The building would rise along the east side of N Fort Harrison Avenue, directly across the street from the Fort Harrison Hotel, Scientology's signature building in Clearwater.

As originally envisioned, it was to be a six-story domed structure with 175 rooms for Scientology "auditing" sessions, 19 larger classrooms, a Scientology bookstore and a 2,500-seat auditorium.

However, Shuford's memo alludes to some changes, as well as some new hurdles, for the project.

He said the building would be three stories, not six. It also would have a parking garage, a new feature apparently inspired by the city's decision last year to require more parking spaces for new downtown projects.

That requirement brought bitter attacks from Scientology officials, who accused the City Commission of trying to impede the Super Power project. City officials denied that, saying the parking requirements also applied to other entities, including several other downtown churches.

Shuford said in the memo that Scientology also might have to submit to an expensive and time-consuming state review of the project, as well as scrutiny from the city's Design Review Board.

Neither Shuford nor Scientology spokesman Brian Anderson could be reached for comment.

The main part of the building would contain 170,000 square feet of floor space, more space than any other commercial office building in downtown Clearwater.

It was not clear whether the changes in the project would affect the cost, which in the past has been estimated at $24-million. Scientology also has said in the past that the new building would bring an additional 300 staff members to Clearwater.

The building will be designed for a series of training courses dubbed "Super Power" by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Clearwater, the spiritual headquarters of Scientology, would be the only place in the world where that course was offered.

According to Scientology literature, Super Power courses enable a participant to "predict and build the future" and think better. It also "restores his power of choice."

The auditorium, Scientology officials have said, would have theater-style seating, high-tech sound and a Broadway-style stage. The organization has said it would use the auditorium 10-12 weeks a year and offer it for public events the rest of the time.

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