BRADENTON -- The Herald's move to the heart of downtown will add more traffic and people to what promises to be a vibrant area this fall.
The Herald has signed a letter of intent to lease space in the Riverview Center, 1111 Third Ave. W., which is owned by developer Hugh Miller.
As the Herald plans to moves its staff, a new Hampton Inn is set to open, two breweries are under construction and three new restaurants and the University of South Florida are examining space in the central district.
The Riverwalk at Rossi Park, with its river views and fishing piers, has already attracted traffic to the downtown area.
And a huge new medical complex, targeted to deal with sports-related injuries, is set to take over the Herald's Manatee Avenue site.
"I think all of this working together will put more people on the streets, providing more business opportunity for restaurants and retail on Main Street, and help grow the downtown core," Miller said.
"It's going to be great for downtown, and for the Bradenton Herald, they're going to be on the pulse of what's happening in the community."
A Jupiter-based developer filed a pre-application with the city of Bradenton to build a medical office complex featuring Coastal Orthopedics, the Herald reported in its Wednesday editions.
Preliminary plans for the 9-acre site include two phases, with the second phase yet to be revealed.
Coastal is already a huge sports medicine operation in Manatee and Sarasota counties, and a downtown site, makes sense near the Riverwalk, where skateboarding, rowing and beach volleyball courts are all within walking distance.
The medical group specializes in orthopedics, sports medicine and pain management, working with athletes from the Pittsburgh Pirates, U.S. Soccer, IMG Academy and the Gatorade Sports Science Institute.
The company has offices in west Bradenton, East Manatee, Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota.
Recently the company made even more inroads into its sports medicine expertise by launching a comprehensive concussion program, led by Jeremy Ng, a concussion management specialist and one of their newest physicians.
The developers indicated the Herald building would be demolished, said Tim Polk, director of Planning & Community Development for Bradenton.
Vernon DeSear, vice president of marketing of Manatee Memorial, is optimistic about what Coastal Orthopedics could do with a medical community beside the hospital.
"If it's beneficial to folks and access to care, we're comfortable," he said.
But Coastal Orthopedics
officials remained mum Wednesday about future plans.
"We don't have any details at this point," Valerie Morse, spokeswoman for Coastal, said Wednesday. "This is just one of several options Coastal is considering."
The company has not signed a lease yet for the 55,000-square-foot medical office building, she said.
The land is owned by a pension fund operated by the Herald's parent company, The McClatchy Co., and is under contract for an undisclosed amount.
The deal is expected to close by early January 2014, said James Bishop, president and chief executive officer of WhiteStar Advisors. The deal could close earlier if the city approves the site plan, allowing development of the medical complex, he said.
Redevelopment of the property will be approved by the Development Review Committee, and will not go before the planning commission, Polk said Wednesday.
During an April 23 meeting, city staff asked the developer to submit a tree-site plan, Polk said, because plans now call for the medical complex to border U.S. 41 where Golden Raintrees, royal purple jacarandas and live oaks stand.
"We need to try to keep many of the trees on that site as much as we can," Polk said.
A site-improvement plan also must be submitted to Public Works to address landscaping, public art and other amenities, Polk said.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.