Ware's Creek lot improvement discussion continues

myoung@bradenton.comApril 23, 2014 

BRADENTON -- The problem with the Ballard Park area of the historic Ware's Creek subdivision is -- there isn't a Ballard Park.

There used to be but it was bulldozed in favor of a housing development years ago.

That could change as discussions continued at a community meeting Tuesday between volunteer architects, planners, city officials and area residents to develop four lots owned by the city, which bought them from builder John Neal three years ago at "bargain basement" prices, according to Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff.

Neal purchased the properties following a failed $300,000 development deal. Even though the properties are worth considerably more, he sold the lots to the city for the amount he paid.

The goal was to enhance the neighborhood around Eighth Avenue West and 17th Street. It was determined Tuesday the top priority for residents is to build a park on the largest lot along Ninth Avenue to the front and Ware's Creek to the rear.

Two lots are being considered for single family homes. The city will ensure any homebuilder adheres to guidelines to be established by city planners to fit in well with surrounding homes.

A third lot on the corner of Eighth Avenue West and 17th Street contains what is sometimes referred to as the "White House," a two-story white home in disrepair.

University of South Florida architectural teacher Trent Green and his students, who presented preliminary designs of the four lots, are helping with the project. Green said he was not advocating demolishing or saving the White House, but it could become a branding factor for the neighborhood if its history was researched.

Tim Polk, director of planning and community development said the house has some historical value because it was a Palmetto home moved to the current site in 1925 by barge up Ware's Creek.

Green's plans called for moving the house back to make room for another home. It could be renovated and used as a community garden club center to enhance the proposed 1.4-acre park.

Resident ideas for the park also include a kayak/canoe launching area, floating dock and boardwalk walking trail.

Miles Ballogg, director of Brownfields & Economic Development of Clearwater, was asked to present preliminary park landscaping plans. Polk said enough input has been gathered for Ballogg to present some digital concepts to the city, "and we'll see what the city can do from there."

Other ideas discussed included building a boardwalk trail and connecting a walking/bike trail from the park to the downtown area.

Charlie Hunsicker, Manatee County Natural Resources director, said the Ware's Creek project was a unique opportunity to make that happen.

"You'll never have this shot again," he said.

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