Scientology Building Not Done

Tampa Tribune/March 19, 2006
By Angela Delgado

Clearwater -- The cream-colored, seven-story building with a red Mediterranean tile roof takes up an entire block downtown.

It's the Church of Scientology's Flag building, across the street from the church's Fort Harrison Hotel headquarters at 215 Fort Harrison Ave.

The buildings are connected by a walkway over the avenue.

Although construction on the 380,000-square-foot building began in 1999, it is unfinished, a virtual shell.

Designed by the Tampa architectural firm of Helmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, the structure will become Scientology's religious center.

On the third floor will be an international ministerial training center where courses not available elsewhere will be provided. Its 14 course rooms will hold more than 1,000 students. There will be 280 counseling rooms.

The building will be dedicated to Scientology services, although most of the first floor and some other areas will be open to the public. The grand lobby will have life-size bronze sculptures depicting principles of Scientology, and there will be an exhibit called "What is Scientology?" with films and a museum to present the history of the church.

The Church of Scientology moved to Clearwater in 1975, purchasing the landmark Fort Harrison Hotel for its spiritual headquarters.

Construction on the new Flag building has been slow.

Last month, the city asked that the safety fence around the building be removed and landscaping added, said Kevin Garriott, a city building inspector. The fence came down, but a new fence recently was installed.

Garriott said electrical inspections were done and permits were issued to build out a couple of rooms in May 2004. In January, a water pipe was installed, and stormwater and water main work was done.

"But generally, not much was done inside," Garriott said. "They still need to do all the build-out construction for all the floors."

Church spokesman Ben Shaw said it took two years after the infrastructure, core and shell of the building were completed to finalize the interior design for the building.

"Unlike most commercial construction, we do not begin construction until we have planning and design perfected to our complete satisfaction," Shaw said.

The church plans to begin the build-out this year, Shaw said.

Also this year the church expects to begin to renovate the Oak Cove, a 10-story structure west of the Fort Harrison Hotel being converted into a residential facility; to renovate the Fort Harrison Hotel; to build a 3,600-seat auditorium - the L. Ron Hubbard Hall - south of the Flag building, with a 475-space parking structure; and to expand the Sandcastle Retreat on the waterfront with a 60,000-square-foot, five-story building.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.