City of Palmetto growing stronger and new vision holds promise

June 3, 2014 

The City of Palmetto continues to impress with business- and job-friendly policies and civic improvements designed to grow the municipal economy and enhance the quality of life for residents.

The latest illustration of that comes with the near completion of a four-year endeavor to adopt a downtown core plan, a comprehensive strategy for the Community Redevelopment Agency.

The city's planning and zoning board is finishing the details, and the city commission is expected to review the blueprint by the end of June. The plan wisely extends beyond downtown.

The civic improvements over the past few years stretch from the eye-catching transformation of Sutton Park into a regional attraction to a multimillion dollar streetscape on Fifth Street to Lincoln Park's Splash Ground addition.

A new 12-acre Martin Luther King Jr. Park is in the works as is what must be highly anticipated: major improvements to the aging but popular Riverside Boat Ramp on the Manatee River in a $1 million construction project.

Two key job centers

Two recent big business acquisitions give Palmetto additional luster.

Feld Entertainment filled a cavernous and vacant industrial building on 46 acres, completing the move earlier this year with hundreds of employees now stationed here.

The producer of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Disney on Ice and Monster Jam, among other giant road shows, puts Palmetto squarely on the entertainment world map.

It Works! Global, a lifestyle and fitness company, is now headquartered in Riverside Plaza across from the boat ramp. City incentives in the form of tax- and building-fee breaks and contracting with local vendors helped close the deal on the company's purchase of the plaza.

The city's CRA holds five acres of prime property by the plaza, too, fielding inquiries about the vacant land along with economic incentive packages.

Palmetto is poised for more infrastructure improvements, too, with six grant applications for multimodal roadway enhancements winning approval from the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization. That will challenge the CRA's financials as some matching funds are required. But that's a very positive position.

In Herald reporter Mark Young's account of Palmetto progress on the downtown core plan last week, CRA Director Jeff Burton remarked about the importance of the It Works! relocation:

"If that site doesn't put an exclamation point that we are serious about this, nothing does. This plan started with a lot of hopes and dreams, and we are beginning to see it become tangible."

Palmetto's resurgence can be traced to the City Commission's takeover of the CRA from an appointed citizen board some six years ago. Now, after four years in the making, the comprehensive downtown core plan is on the cusp of adoption.

This ambitious vision looks like the linchpin of continuing advances for Palmetto, improvements that spread well beyond the city limits and place Manatee County in a stronger economic development future.

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