Slow, steady progress is message for Village of the Arts

myoung@bradenton.comMarch 20, 2014 

From left: Barry Elwonger, marketing manager of Motorworks Brewing; Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton; and Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roth, discuss Village of the Arts progress at a quarterly development meeting. MARK YOUNG/Bradenton Herald

BRADENTON -- Henry Ford once said: "Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success."

Multiple entities coming together for a common purpose and achieving an end result is sometimes more difficult than the project itself. While the Plan to Act project to enhance the 42-acre radius of the Village of the Arts and the 14th Street West Community Redevelopment Area overlay district hasn't achieved an end result, Ford's premise of success could be applied to the long-term commitment of original members and a growing number of interested parties.

Project partners consist of many volunteers, the city of Bradenton, Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, Village of the Arts and Realize Bradenton. All have come together under the blanket of the Plan to Act Tapestry Project, aptly named for its multi-layered, interwoven plan to improve two primary corridors into downtown Bradenton, as well as the Village of the Arts, which encompasses the area between 14th Street West to Ninth Street West at McKechnie Field and then south to 18th Street West.

The intent to improve 14th Street West has been on the radar much longer than the VOTA project, but a recession that tightened financial belts across the country put a lot of those plans on the back burner, although some have since moved forward. The VOTA connection to the overall project is newer, and in many ways brighter as a community of artists are seeking to have input on everything from street design to the color of light poles.

And that's just fine by everyone involved.

"This is the part I like," said Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston. "I like the imagining, but now we can talk about the planning. We don't spend a lot of time putting plans on the shelf at the city. We have to do it correctly and put them into action."

Bradenton's Ward 3 City Councilman Patrick Roff said improvement plans suffered in the lagging economy, but it appears better days are ahead.

"We've been waiting for this economy to turn around" said Roff. "We are in the right place at the right time. The city is getting through this recession and the Plan to Act project is the next big thing."

Roff cautioned against forgetting about 14th Street West in the midst of all the excitement to make VOTA a Bradenton destination with intricate pathways weaving in and around a virtual community art gallery.

"I believe the chain is only as strong as the weakest link," he said. "At the end of the day, we are going to be judged by our weakest link."

Plan to Act progress is slow and steady, which is better than stagnant, he said.

Short-term goals, those expected to be completed in the first two years, are mostly in process or on hold. But one big city project is to resolve the flooding on 10th Street West.

Bradenton Public Works Director Claude Tankersley said new stormwater drainage pipes will be installed before the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year.

"We are just waiting for the permits to go through and the new drain pipes will begin going into the ground," said Tankersley.

Tankersley also talked about how the city can improve stormwater treatment and drainage by using rain gardens and bio-swales. Tankersley said these methods provide good stormwater treatment and enhance the landscaping.

Discussion also focused on developing subcommittees to resolve some of the smaller tasks. Tankersley said VOTA residents had a hard time choosing a proposed color to paint the light poles. Public works employees painted four test poles different colors.

"There have been votes for all four," Tankersley said. "We need to get together and make some decisions on these smaller things so we can move forward with the bigger things."

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