The Church of Scientology quickly made Clearwater, Florida, its home base and shot $ 103 million in three years to sweep up 101 acres of waterfront in the city center.
The controversial church landed for the first time in Clearwater in 1975 with one hotel ownership to its name, but the organization had extensive plans to spread the reach throughout the center.
In just three years, starting with a fierce land robbery in January 2017, Scientology doubled its footprint in the city.
After a quarrel with the city council, Scientologists began to buy downtown real estate – worth $ 103 million to be precise – and now the church and its members own 185 properties that cover 101 acres of downtown.
The church now completely manages the heart of the city, with the exception of a few condominium tower and government buildings Tampa Bay Times after assessing 1000 acts and business data, shocked city leaders and residents on the extent of the dominance of the church.
The Church of Scientology doubled its footprint in Clearwater, Florida in just three years after shooting $ 103 million to capture 185 properties that cover 101 acres of the city center. Clearwater is home to one of the most important bases of the church, a campus called Flag (above), which Scientologists make pilgrimages around the world
Before: this map shows the extent of ownership of Scientology in downtown Clearwater Florida in 2016
By 2019, the church had expanded enormously, doubling its footprint and covering 101 hectares of land
And Clearwater is home to one of the most important bases of the church, a campus called Flag, where established Scientologists from around the world make pilgrimages. Flag is run by the notorious full-time workforce of the church, the Sea Org, whose members sign billion annual contracts.
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard called Clearwater his spiritual headquarters.
The famous members of the church, Tom Cruise and John Travolta, are known to have estates near Clearwater.
But how did the church grow so quickly? The reason lies in the increasing tensions between the church and the Clearwater City Council.
Scientology proposed a major redevelopment project designed to lure new stores to empty stores on the city's waterfront and near the church's headquarters, but the council was involved in plans for a land deal that the church wanted his expansion plan.
Since then, the church stopped communicating with the city and the rapid land grabbing began.
Scientologists began to purchase property through limited liability companies that are required by law to disclose their operators but not their owners. In this way, Scientologists could buy properties without knowing that they were behind it.
Strangely enough, half of those properties were not for sale and half of the sales went for more than double the actual value of the property. In six cases, buyers created four times the value of the property that was considered by the district appraiser.
But many of those purchased properties remain closed or out of use. Walking through Clearwater, people find empty lots, an empty former jewelry store, a dead launderette and an abandoned Walgreens.
The church has not revealed any motive behind their dominance of Clearwater city center.
The church told DailyMail.com: “The article in The Times is just the latest in his constant and endless obsession with Scientology and is little more than self-served propaganda that is meant to give the appearance of objective reporting without the factual facts to report to the reader.
Scientology has 10 million followers, but surveys and reports from former members suggest that there are no more than 30,000 worldwide. It is not clear how many followers are located in Clearwater.
The influence of the church comes from its enormous wealth, estimated at around $ 3 billion in cash and assets collected from dedicated followers.
However, the church hit the Times for its reporting because it had a & # 39; pre-set agenda to present every Scientology story in a false and unfavorable light & # 39 ;.
& # 39; There is nothing unnatural about Scientologists who want to live in the same city where the international spiritual headquarters of their church is located, & # 39; said a letter signed by Scientology lawyer Gary Soter to the Times.
Scientology has 10 million followers, but surveys and reports from former members suggest that there are no more than 30,000 worldwide. Scientology did not immediately answer why they took over the Clearwater area, but skeptics say it is to keep the public away. Scientology leader David Miscavige pictured above
& # 39; The Church was unaware of the large number of property of Scientologists in the Clearwater area and is pleased that you have provided the information, & # 39; added the letter.
The church did not comment on whether Scientology orchestrated or paid for the sale of real estate.
Although most representatives of the 32 companies that have purchased the downtown property in recent years, few commented on their purchase and claimed that Scientology did not play a role in the purchase of land.
& # 39; I am not mixing my personal affairs with other areas of my life & # 39 ;, said Terri Novitsky, a Scientologist who manages a company that purchased two office buildings on Chestnut Street in 2017.
The famous members of the church, Tom Cruise and John Travolta, are known to have estates in Clearwater, not far from Scientology headquarters
The few who chose to speak about the sale of their property said they were approached by a Scientologist who made offers and paid in cash.
Scientology's response to the Clearwater acquisition
The Times article is simply the latest in its constant and endless obsession with Scientology and is little more than self-service propaganda intended to give the impression of objective reporting without reporting the factual facts to the reader. If she was in Utah, the intrepid Times reporter would have said that & # 39; Mormons are buying real estate in downtown Salt Lake City! & # 39; That point comes to the fore in an editorial article (& # 39; One Community, Many Good People & # 39;) in the new edition of our Freedom Magazine.
The true story of the development of the city center is presented in an article in that freedom, & # 39; Who is the real block to the revitalization of the city center? & # 39; You will discover the facts for yourself when you read that article; it provides the real answer to what happened with the revitalization of the inner city – and how the revitalization was torpedoed by the Times.
Freedom Magazine is a publication produced by Scientology
Municipal officials are suspected that the church is planning to do something with the land that they now own.
& # 39; The logical conclusion is that Scientology should have some sort of game plan in mind, but they are not public about what it is & said, # said City Councilor Hoyt Hamilton. & # 39; When people buy commercial real estate, they usually move ahead with construction or redevelopment. This does not happen with almost all of these characteristics. & # 39;
& # 39; Since I've been here, and since I've been in touch with Scientology officials, I've heard the leaders say they want to see a bustling downtown & # 39 ;, said Long City City Manager Bill Horne, who's downtown a shopping mall and entertainment center, said. & # 39; However, it has not always been clear to me what that means exactly. & # 39;
Church critics say Scientology has bought the downtown property to keep the public at bay.
& # 39; They have one intention and only one intention. Buy as much property as possible for the church – whether they use it or not, or leave it there and rot – so there can be no one else & # 39 ;, Tom De Vocht, a former Scientology director who oversaw the real estate of the church in Clearwater from 1996 to 2001, said.
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