Bradenton planners approve Just For Girls charter schoool proposal

myoung@bradenton.comMarch 20, 2014 

A proposed expansion will demolish the existing 7,560-square-foot building on 59th Street West and construct a new 26,390-square-foot Just For Girls Academy, a charter school for K-8th Grade girls and to expand their before and after school care activities. It goes before Planning Commission on Wednesday. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

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BRADENTON -- Just For Girls didn't just receive a stamp of approval Wednesday from the Bradenton Planning Commission, the nonprofit organization that caters to young Manatee County female students through its charter school system received unique personal accolades.

"It's a tear-jerking moment when you go to one of their graduation ceremonies and see the fine work they've done in structuring the lives of young girls," said Tim Polk, Bradenton director of planning and community development.

Polk worked with the organization a few years ago when its location on 21st Street East was upgraded to begin a charter school program.

"They've been the sub

ject of community development grant block funding and I want to say kudos to the staff on a job well done," said Polk. "I know they will be looking for future funding and they are, by far, one of the finest organizations we have dealt with as far as an agency acquiring funds from the city."

Just For Girls representatives provided planning commissioners with their plans to expand the facility at 3809 59th St. W., which call for demolishing the existing 7,560-square-foot building and replacing it with a 26,390-square-foot new facility.

Polk said Just For Girls will pursue CDGB funding from the city and county. Becky Canesse, CEO of Just for Girls, said acquiring those funds is part of the effort to raise $4.4 million in construction costs.

"We are submitting our grants this Friday and will be requesting two three-year commitments from CDGB funds," said Canesse in an email to the Bradenton Herald prior to the planning commission meeting.

She previously said Just For Girls hopes to secure half of the construction costs through CDGB funding, with the remainder raised through its Smart Growth Campaign.

Diane Barcus raised the commission's only major concern by asking how girls in East Bradenton would get to the new facility when the charter school is transferred to West Bradenton.

"We are coordinating transportation issues with the Manatee County School District," said Canesse. "I've talked to the parents and they are all very excited about the new building. We don't expect to lose any girls."

Barcus said: "It will be nice to see that old metal building go."

The existing structure is more than 35 years old. No one disagreed with Barcus.

Benjamin Bakker, planning commissioner, recommended approval to amend the Just For Girls special use permit and preliminary site plan based on the presentation and staff recommendations. The motion passed unanimously and the Bradenton City Council will hear the matter at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

In other business, the planning commission unanimously recommended approval to amend a special use permit to potentially allow Gary Walzak, owner of Pub 88, 436 12th St. W., to install a sushi bar inside his business.

Planning commissioners expressed concern about the pub's tight quarters and the sushi bar's location near a sink used to wash dishes.

Walzak said a splash guard would be installed between the sink and sushi bar, and a glass divider would separate the made-to-order food from customers.

The city council also will consider Walzak's proposal Wednesday.

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