City backs off line in the sand over Rogers Plaza

myoung@bradenton.comApril 25, 2014 

BRADENTON -- In the latest round of pingpong-like discussions over the Minnie L. Rogers Plaza at 13th Avenue West and First Street, city officials backed away from the hard stance taken Tuesday when Mayor Wayne Poston and City Clerk Carl Callahan suggested it might be time to start the Save-A-Lot grocery story project over.

Callahan had said demands from the developer and the investment group on the city were cause to reconsider the entire project.

There was a softer tone at Thursday's Central Community Redevelopment Agency meeting at City Hall.

The CCRA board met without quorum so members listened to presentations without taking any action. The board did swear in Patricia Johnson as a new member, who was receiving her first official update of the ongoing Rogers Plaza saga that began about four years ago.

Since then, the ceremonial shovelfuls turned in an October 2012 ground-breaking ceremony have been the only work done on the site.

Tim Polk, CCRA executive director, reminded the board a lot has been accomplished since the symbolic ground-breaking, designed to let the public know the project was moving forward.

Polk said the development team has secured $6 million in new market tax credits from the U.S. Bank, put together a strong development team with decades of grocery store experience, and is filling a need with a mixed land use classification to mitigate the food desert issue in the area by providing healthier choices.

"People often think this is just a Hope VI issue with it being located near the Bradenton Village Apartments or a 14th Street CCRA District project, but it's not," said Polk. "I've talked to people in the Village of the Arts and in East Bradenton who all consider it as their grocery store, so people recognize that it's an important grocery store."

Callahan said the city and the CCRA are on the same page.

"I want to reiterate that the city's goal is similar to your goal and that is to bring a good deal forward," said Callahan. "We just want to make sure that no one project overtakes everything you are trying to do. If any portion of this starts to drain funds, then you have to look at that because they could erode the other things you want to do."

Callahan said he wants to ensure the CCRA remains sustainable.

Polk said negotiations continue with the developer.

Save-A-Lot is still committed to the project, according to Polk, as are potential renters in the plaza. The only business that has pulled out of the project is Five-Star Rental, and Polk said it was a plus as it gives the CCRA more leverage regarding what business moves into the plaza.

"There is still a lot of negotiating that needs to happen to make this work and we are keeping City Hall apprised of that," said Polk. "I look forward to continuing with Rogers Plaza and making it happen."

City officials voiced their displeasure earlier this week about excessive demands from the Milwaukee-based Endeavour Corp., which wants the city to become the master leaseholder bearing responsibility to find renters or pay the developer rent for empty spaces.

Callahan said he hopes the project can move forward.

"There's nothing behind it that says we don't want it or we do want it," he said. "We just want to completely analyze the deal."

The CCRA Board agreed to schedule a future public meeting on the grocery store issue to ensure all the appropriate information gets to the public on the project's status.

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

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