Ambitious ideas posed for Village of the Arts Monday

jtate@bradenton.comApril 30, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Ambitious ideas posed by University of South Florida students and Shannon Bassett, assistant USF professor of architecture and urbanism, locked attention on the two-hour "Plan to Act" meeting Monday.

Recommendations included eco-friendly rain gardens and green streets, public transportation connectivity and bike stations, activated spaces through targeted real estate purchases, greater organizational coordination and event spaces with movable furniture.

The brainstorming session on redeveloping the 14th Street Central Community Redevelopment Agency took place at the Renaissance on 1816 Ninth St. W with roughly 75 residents and business owners in attendance to see a presentation four months in the making.

Bassett and architectural graduate students, Adam Skwirsk and Michael Marti, drew oohs and ahhs with colorful, detailed renderings forecasting a more urbanized Village of the Arts with revitalized business districts and housing.

Some owners were more concerned with attracting customers than beautifying the area. Many called for economic issues to be addressed before infrastructure.

Professor David Brain, who organized ideas gathered through four previous meetings, said the study addressed physical design upgrades that would attract the foot traffic businesses owners crave.

Owner Guy Cannata of the Italian restaurant Ortygia said he hopes the plans are implemented soon. He also called for more elected officials to contribute to the Village of the Arts economy.

"They don't come to our places," said Cannata.

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said residents must decide what the most important issues are before the city can plan to address solutions.

Poston said once residents decide on an economic development direction the city can determine costs, funding sources and project timing.

"We are trying to create a sense of place, a place where people want to be," said Poston.

The USF team has a month to format its plans into a formal proposal for the city with recommendations on improvements. Realize Bradenton, Bradenton Downtown Development Authority and residents of the Village of the Arts will review the suggested solutions from USF students.

This series began in January with Brain facilitating meetings involving ideas and concerns raised by residents.

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