BRADENTON -- Steps to enhance the Historic Ware's Creek neighborhood have been large and small, but for more than a decade those steps have all been taken toward a dramatic and ongoing revitalization.
Bradenton's Ward 3 City Councilman Patrick Roff, a resident of Ware's Creek, on Friday dedicated a new gateway sign as a symbol of the neighborhood's effort to "stabilize a war we already fought for."
Roff said the original signs were obtained through a 50 percent match grant through
the Manatee County neighborhood enhancement program that the county suspended when the recession hit around 2008, but time has taken a toll on what is seen in the neighborhood as one of the early steps in turning Ware's Creek around.
Roff said one sign had been vandalized. Residents thought it stolen until he found it floating in the creek.
Roff spearheaded an effort to upgrade some of the other signs, and Roberta Goss, who Roff calls "keeper of the neighborhood," got together with Bob McDuffy from the county's chapter of Modern Woodmen of America. It's a national fraternal organization founded in 1883 consisting of members associated with the financial services and insurance industries that donate back to the community in a variety of ways.
"This was a beautification project for Ware's Creek where we wanted to help enhance the community," said McDuffy. "The sign is part of that, but it included putting in new plants and trees."
The majority of Woodmen projects are landscaping related. The group worked with Keep Manatee Beautiful on the project.
"It was a team effort, and what we do is partner with neighbors to make a difference," he said.
Traci Gordi, a Ware's Creek resident and artist, volunteered her time to paint the sign that welcomes people into Ware's Creek at the corner of Ninth Avenue West and Virginia Drive.
She said Roff approached her to do the sign, "but as a Realtor, an artist and single mom, I told him I was extremely busy and didn't have the time," she said. "But he's very persuasive."
Gordi had paints out for another project she was working on, and Roff told her, "You already have the paints out, just paint it while you are working on the other one."
That wasn't the persuasive argument to Gordi, but when Roff said it would make a difference to the neighborhood, she agreed.
She created the artwork using a dot method because she wanted to give two perspectives.
"People driving by will see the larger picture, but a lot of people like to walk the neighborhood and for people that walk by the sign will see a much more detailed perspective," she said.
It took about five work hours to complete the sign.
Roff said these kind of details within a neighborhood can make a big difference, and it was time for the county to revisit the suspended neighborhood enhancement grant program.
"I would think out of a $500 million budget, they could find the $50,000 that once was used for this program," said Roff. "I think the program has just been forgotten about, and I'd encourage them to get back into that program and remember what an impact it makes for neighborhoods."
Manatee County Neighborhood Services Director Cheri Coryea said that could happen sooner than later.
"It does still exist, but what happened was during the economic downturn we found neighborhoods were having trouble matching that grant, so it kind of became inactive at that point," said Coryea. "But we plan to open it back up."
Coryea said the county commission will have a first reading Tuesday on a new geographically designed redevelopment ordinance and within the ordinance is the concept to begin refunding a neighborhood improvement program.
"It was well received during the work session, so we expect it will pass," said Coryea. "If it does, we hope to open that program back up by Oct. 1."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.