Bradenton neighborhood project delays untenable

March 28, 2014 

In retrospect, the ceremonial October 2012 "ground-breaking" for a highly anticipated retail center in a downtown Bradenton corridor looks more like a political gesture than real progress.

Today, nearby residents look upon the sign at the parcel of land at 13th Avenue West and First Street with disdain: "Construction site."

There's nothing of the sort happening there. The only thing building up are weeds. This is a vacant lot with a rusty fence, still far from a project as the official city ceremony teased the neighborhood some 18 months ago.

More than a hundred people attended that 2012 celebration for "The Minnie L. Rogers Plaza and Retail Center," named in honor of the late and revered community leader, Minnie L. Rogers.

The neighborhood cheered the belief that fresh produce would soon become available in a food desert.

But one too many times residents have heard financing is right around the corner. That's one very long corner.

It's the tiresome "check's in the mail" excuse. Why isn't the city of Bradenton more forceful and aggressive in cementing this development? Why do officials continue to wait for some other government agency or lending company to sign off on this -- wait and wait and wait?

Does anyone believe its takes years to make this kind of decision?

Actual construction was supposed to begin in December 2012 on a plaza anchored by a Save-A-Lot grocery, a sorely needed addition to a neighborhood with only convenience stores. Other shops would have provided residents with a variety of services and goods, but a nearby grocery store was the key.

The Central Community Redevelopment Agency acquired the land some five years ago when the 13th Avenue Dream Center left an aging structure for a sterling new neighborhood asset on 24th Street East. The old building was demolished to make way for a retail plaza.

That CCRA goal has stalled. The agency also has not kept residents informed about the project -- even if that only involves the utter lack of progress.

Norma Dunwoody, recently appointed to the Bradenton Housing Authority, expressed more than just her concerns in an interview with Herald reporter Mark Young this week:

"We haven't been informed of anything since last summer when I was part of the committee that named the plaza.

"The community hasn't been told anything and as far as we know, it's all up in the air. People have resigned themselves to the fact that this is probably never going to happen.

"It's frustrating because everyone in this community and the surrounding communities were so happy about this store coming here."

CCRA Executive Director Tim Polk indicated good news is forthcoming this week in that same report by Young. The city is working with an Alabama company, New Start Community Development, to build this retail center. If this firm cannot proceed with the project, then the city should court another one.

We hope Polk announces financial commitments, closing dates and a construction schedule very soon -- concrete developments and not more promises.

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