First Street in downtown Bradenton seeing a renaissance

jajones1@bradenton.comFebruary 26, 2014 

BRADENTON -- There is something of a renaissance underway for the dozen or so blocks of the U.S. 301-41 corridor from Manatee Avenue south to the CSX railroad tracks near the Red Barn Flea Market.

Tim Polk, city planning director, highlighted the changes Tuesday for the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority.

Chief among them is the proposed 6,119-square-foot Wawa convenience store, complete with 20 pumps and outdoor seating, just south of an existing KFC restaurant. It will be built on vacant land where a Shopping Guide business was once located.

It is one of two Wawas planned for Bradenton area.

The impending arrival of Wawa, with its near-cult following for its fresh sandwiches and legendary cleanliness, has some First Street competitors, including RaceTrac, planning to improve their facilities, Polk said.

Construction on the U.S. 301-41 Wawa is expected to start in 2014, project engineer Scott Gerard said after the meeting.

The schedule for building the other Bradenton Wawa at 4465 State Road 64 East has been accelerated, said Christian Yepes of the Belleair Development Group in Pinellas Park.

Originally, a 2015 opening was envisioned for the State Road 64 store, but now a 2014 opening is being planned.

"We are shooting for end of the year delivery. We are very excited to bring this to the Bradenton area," Yepes said.

Other additions to the U.S. 301-41 corridor in recent years include a Starbucks, a Zeko's restaurant and Advanced Auto Parts.

The future for First Street may also hold a Tropical Smoothie just north of RaceTrac, an office or retail facility on the former Checkers site near the Manatee County School District administration center, and biggest of all, the Minnie L. Rogers Plaza and Retail Center, with a Save-A-Lot grocery, proposed for 13th Avenue West.

Groundbreaking for the proposed grocery was in October 2012.

"It's still moving forward," Polk said of plans for Save-A-Lot. The holdup continues to be financing for developing the 3.5-acre site.

Polk also talked to DDA board members about encouraging banks to make their facilities in the downtown area something architecturally special, citing the example of the Pink Palace, which is now a Hampton Inn & Suites.

Of particular interest is the empty First Priority Bank center to the east of the Judicial Center on Manatee Avenue.

"We want them to do something that is unique, that will add to downtown but not distract," Polk said.

But, he added, even though banks may be flush with money, they often prefer to lease rather than invest in a new building.

In other business, Johnette Isham of Realize Bradenton briefed board members on Stories of Valor honoring veterans, starting Saturday with Bradenton Farmers Market hosting Veterans Appreciation Day. Multiple events are planned in March and April, concluding April 12 at McKechnie Field with a USO-style show.

James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter: @jajones1.

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