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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

CLEARWATER, FL-Aqualea and Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa is on its way toward completion by this time next year, with a formal topping-out ceremony held last week. The $105-million project, which stands 17 stories high overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, is being touted as the centerpiece of the city’s Beach Walk revitalization project.

Tampa-based NJR Development Co. LLC, headed by Neil Rauenhorst, is developing the 920,000-square-foot Aqualea project, which will include 250 Hyatt Regency suites plus 18 ultra-luxury private condominium units. Rauenhorst was previously president and CEO of Opus South Corp., part of Minnetonka, MN-based Opus Corp., before leaving the family business in 2002 to start his own enterprise. Opus South is now based in Atlanta.

“Clearwater Beach is positioned to become one of the country’s most attractive vacation destinations, and we are extremely proud to be part of its renaissance,” Rauenhorst stated in a release. “We’re fortunate to be on track with our growth and are looking forward to welcoming guests and residents next December.”

Construction in the coming year will focus on exterior, infrastructure, landscaping and interior finishes. A 750-space parking garage will contribute to Clearwater’s $35-million Beach Walk, which is expected to offer new shopping, dining and entertainment options along a half-mile promenade.

Bovis Lend Lease is construction manager for the Aqualea project, which has a crew of 200. Hyatt Regency, a brand of Global Hyatt Corp., is expected to add 160 jobs over the coming year as the resort moves toward opening.

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