Focus on Manatee: Why we invest in community landmarks

February 24, 2014 

By now, some residents may be curious about why Manatee County is investing in the renovation of the Bradenton Beach Bridge Street Pier.

The answer is pretty simple: we must continue to invest in our community history; history that has made Anna Maria Island what it is today. Anna Maria Island has a unique and authentic Florida character that can't be replicated in our beautiful state.

This authentic character makes the Island appealing in the marketplace to prospective visitors, future home owners, and to business prospectors. The residents and tourists will have a renovated historic pier that will ultimately enhance the quality of life for our community, and at a cost that does not impact our general fund dollars that support public safety, education and other important government services.

The Bradenton Beach Bridge Street Pier's history is quite interesting. Until 1921, Anna Maria Island was only accessible by boat, when a wooden bridge was built from the Cortez fishing village to what is now known today as the Bradenton Beach Bridge Street Pier. The wooden bridge was driven on daily until 1967 when the Cortez drawbridge opened. The remains of the old wooden bridge still exist today, now known as the Bradenton Beach Bridge Street fishing pier.

The Pier is also complemented by Bridge Street, lined with boutique shops and restaurants, and bookended by the Bridgewalk Resort that consists of 28 Key West style accommodations that overlook both the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay.

The Bridge Street and Pier settings showcase the authentic character of Anna Maria Island, a setting that echoes a bygone era that our visitors and residents love. We must continue to invest in, protect, and showcase our unique assets in the marketplace so we can carry on driving visitors to our area; visitors that will ultimately help support our

local economy. Without visitors, our businesses, parks, and public services will suffer, and our real estate values will struggle to increase with the lack of demand from non-residents.

Why is this pier renovation a good deal?

The City of Bradenton Beach will invest up to $1 million of community redevelopment funds (limited to redevelopment projects only), and Manatee County will invest up to $1 million of tourism tax proceeds for the project (tourism tax is limited to marketing, beach renourishment and certain capital projects specifically related to the tourism industry).

Without tourism, we as residents would live in a depressed environment where restaurants, shops and attractions would struggle or even close and our economy would lose up to 19,000 jobs related to the hospitality industry. All we need from our residents is to continue to show our visitors the hospitality we are known for and have patience when we have to wait an extra few minutes in traffic.

Let's continue to enhance our community and find balanced partnerships so we can all stretch our limited dollars. The Bradenton Beach Bridge Street Pier is just one example of a good partnership. I hope we develop many more in the near future.

Elliott Falcione, Executive Director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, can be reached at Elliott.Falcione@BACVB.com or 941-729-9177 ext. 222.

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