Bradenton hopes to double size of Riverwalk in coming years

myoung@bradenton.comApril 18, 2014 

BRADENTON --The success of Bradenton Riverwalk was never in doubt, but even those involved have been pleasantly surprised at the magnitude of its success -- and a "why stop there" philosophy is quickly forming.

Talks have begun on doubling the length of Riverwalk to 3 miles with a new section stretching toward the east along the Manatee River.

David Gustafson, executive director of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, said Riverwalk expansion is 100 percent on the city's wish list, "but is still several years out and is based on how quickly a couple of properties come into line."

Tarpon Pointe Grill, 801 Riverside Drive E., and the abandoned Riviera Southshore condominium property are the only two obstacles that could potentially stop Riverwalk's continuous stretch to the east.

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said Tarpon Pointe is on board, but the city will

have to wait until a developer comes forward on the Riviera Southshore property, which has been under contract for development since 2007. Details of the development are not public record until a financial deal has been finalized.

The potential developer has asked for multiple extensions to the site improvement permit, with the most recent one granted in 2012. The extension expires next month, according to city planning records.

If development moves forward, an exception from the developer will be required, according to Poston, who said the city had the foresight to ensure that any properties on the river seeking to develop are required to leave room for Riverwalk expansion in their plans.

"Everyone from the beginning had the understanding that Riverwalk would expand on that 28 acres east of Tarpon Pointe," said Poston. "With the economy coming back, we expect to see some movement on that property and as soon as it does, we are going to take off on Riverwalk."

Poston estimates it could be another two or three years, and Gustafson said it will likely be a "multi-year process before it moves forward." Both, however, agree it's inevitable.

Gustafson said the expansion likely will feature many of the same Riverwalk characteristics, "with maybe more emphasis on health and body components. It's a process, but it's a process that we will take back through the community to determine what goes there. It was the community input during the first phase that has made Riverwalk what it is today."

Gustafson said the expansion would benefit the city in more ways than one.

"There aren't too many other communities in this nation that have the kind of opportunity we have or the kind of amenity like Riverwalk," he said. "Let alone what it will do for Manatee County and Bradenton financially, because we are already seeing property values on Riverwalk rise between 20 percent to 40 percent. That means a bigger tax base."

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.

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