As the new year begins, one Bradenton neighborhood enjoys the prospect of revitalization through several projects under the auspices of the city's Central Community Redevelopment Agency.
First and foremost is a long-sought grocery store, poised to begin construction. Further down the road is the so-called MLK Gateway Project of housing or mixed-use structures.
At the same time, the city is placing a stronger focus on the Village of the Arts via the 14th Street West Community Redevelopment Agency and the launch of a neighborhood visioning workshop in mid-January. Residents and stakeholders are invited to articulate their aspirations for the neighborhood.
Bradenton is not resting on the laurels brought about by the spectacular success of Riverwalk, only open since October, but is forging ahead with revitalization on multiple fronts.
While city leaders staged a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of the future Minnie L. Rogers Plaza and Retail Center in December, perhaps a bit eager for this to begin, construction has yet to start as the developer awaits final loan approval. That could come within days.
The neighborhood deserves this major improvement, which features a Save-A-Lot as the centerpiece attraction alongside about eight retail shops. This will finally provide residents with a grocery store within walking distance where fresh vegetables and fruits along with other healthy food can be found -- the major consideration in pushing the project forward.
The historic site for this project has significant meaning to the black community as the home of a place where treasured memories were born. The 13th Avenue Community Center stood there from its opening in 1937 until it moved into a sparkling new center to the east. As the neighborhood's primary gathering place, the old center played host to all manner of social, education and recreational events for generations of residents.
When the new 13th Av Dream Center opened in March 2010, director Patrick Carnegie stated: "This is truly a blessing for the community." Indeed, as will the new shopping center.
In March 2012, the Central Community Redevelopment Agency launched the MLK Gateway Project to create commercial or residential space along the southwest corner of Third Street East and Ninth Avenue East, aka Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. This 1.2-acre site is only few blocks from the Save-A-Lot parcel, at 13th Avenue West and First Street.
The CCRA is currently seeking proposals from consultants on the development of the mixed use or residential project with a mid-January deadline for submissions.
The Village of the Arts project is broader in scope involving artists, residents, property owners, merchants and businesses in a visioning process designed to come up with physical improvements, cultural vibrancy and economic strength in the 42-acre neighborhood.
The Downtown Development Authority and Realize Bradenton are leading this "place-making" economic development effort with a host of partners.
Bradenton accomplished big things in 2012, and 2013 promises to bring more progress as the city expands its revitalization strategy.
The city of Palmetto is also progressing well with infrastructure improvements intended to spur the economy.