Bradenton officials want residents' input on Village of the Arts' future

nwilliams@bradenton.comJanuary 10, 2013 

BRADENTON -- "Imagine they have been away for 20 years and they return to see their best hopes for the neighborhood."

Those are the words David Brain, a professor of sociology at New College of Florida, conveyed to Bradenton officials and Downtown Development Authority board members this week.

As the 14th Street Community Redevelopment Agency moves forward with its Village of the Arts Planning Project, engaging the community's input is a top priority because city officials want the revamped neighborhood to reflect its residents.

To gauge their vision for the future of the neighborhood, the 14th Street CRA Agency is asking Bradenton residents to attend the Village Visioning Workshop from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Monday at the Salvation Army at 1204 14th St. W.

The 14th Street area includes Village of the Arts, blocks of art galleries that also serve as permanent residences for many artists.

The workshop has been organized by "Connectors," a group of 14th Street West neighborhood residents formed by Bradenton officials and partners. The group will help mobilize participants and serve as facilitators.

"You can have experts walk the neighborhoods and make decisions, but you want residents to have what they want addressed," Brain said.

At the workshop, residents will be asked to construct a comprehensive design of what they want the neighborhood to look like. The assignment is as simple as residents drawing their own site plan.

"The intent is to focus their ideas of the neighborhood in practical visual elements," Brain said.

The Village of the Arts

Planning Project includes a partnership of businesses, the Artists Guild of Manatee, Bradenton's Downtown Development Authority, Realize Bradenton, New College of Florida, University of South Florida and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.

New College and USF professors and students will take the lead in developing proposals for the project. Shannon Bassett, an assistant professor of architecture and urbanism at USF, and her students worked with the city on the construction of downtown's Riverwalk.

Bassett says the planning project for 14th Street West presents similar opportunities for multi-scale spaces.

"There is an opportunity to connect to the spine of Old Main Street," she said.

The workshop is the first step of a six-stage plan for the development of a visual outlook for the neighborhood. In the next phase, city planners and designers will create a graphic representation based on the residents' designs and identify other potential projects within the neighborhood. The city will then schedule a second visioning workshop sometime in February.

The remaining stages include an undetermined meeting with stakeholders for feedback on work in progress, an April presentation by the USF design team to stakeholders and a production report due in May detailing the results of the vision planning process.

"By doing this analysis, we'll have documents in hand to go out for funding," said David Gustafson, executive director of the DDA.

Those interested in attending should RSVP at 920-216-7833 or email morgan@boardrb.com

Nick Williams, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams

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