Bradenton takes first look at proposed Ballard Park infill project

myoung@bradenton.comJuly 3, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Four parcels totaling almost 2.5 acres in the Ballard Park subdivision could see new life with the addition of up to 12 new homes and two waterfront parks.

The Ballard Park-Ware's Creek Residential Infill Plan was brought before Bradenton City Council on Wednesday for its first official look at the proposed project spearheaded by Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff upon learning the properties were going up for sale.

Those properties, he said, "were an eyesore when I moved into the neighborhood 30 years ago, and the people that were looking to buy them were some of the most notorious slumlords in the city. They would have chopped them up and rented to the finest group of derelicts they could find and this neighborhood would have continued to suffer."

Roff approached Neal Communities Inc. officials to buy the properties in hopes it could be developed. Development was not an option, but the Neals sold the land at cost to the city.

A park with a kayak launch is a priority of the infill project for the Ballard Park neighborhood on the east bank of Ware's Creek.

Planning and Community Development Director Tim Polk presented four options complete with tentative designs based on community input.w

The four properties are on the corners of Ninth Avenue West and Ballard Park Drive, and Eighth Avenue West and 17th Street West, with two properties encompassing several hundred feet of waterfront along newly

dredged Ware's Creek.

Polk's proposal focused on the version preferred by city officials.

The 1.4-acre waterfront parcel on Ninth Street West would be the primary park with a dog park and kayak launch.

Parcels two and three would be residential, with the city setting home-design standards for any developer to blend into the neighborhood.

Parcel 4, the other waterfront property, is now the site of a neighborhood landmark affectionately called the "White House" -- a two-story home estimated to be more than a century old.

Early plans called for an effort to save the home, move it and turn it a community center. However, plans show saving the house is no longer an option.

Roff said there is no historical documentation on the home. There were rumors the home was ferried down the creek in the late 1800s, but Roff said he found no proof.

"I did everything I could to take a historic preservation avenue for the house," he said. "I tried to get the Historic Preservation Society involved and they gave it a pass."

The parcel is targeted for a smaller waterfront park where people can bring kayaks or canoes to the water and then park elsewhere. Both waterfront park proposals include residential housing.

The project goal is to sell the land to a developer with homebuilding guidelines and use the proceeds to develop the parks. Other funding sources include Community Development Block Grants, tax increment dollars and the Woodbury Tree Fund for landscaping.

Vice Mayor Bemis Smith said he is concerned about long-term maintenance costs.

"It seems we are putting a lot of things in here and wasting a bunch of money on a street to add a little park and everybody in the city is still going to have to pay for it," said Smith. "In my ward, we are losing park space and we are going to ask my ward to pay for it?"

City Clerk Carl Callahan said Wednesday's presentation was based on student designs and community input, which "didn't take into consideration how much things cost. Our goal is to keep costs to a minimal and a have a way to pay for it."

Roff said the presentation was a "smorgasbord of options, but there are good ideas in there."

Polk said once the council settles on a concept, the city can take its next steps.

Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo said: "Let's not put this on a shelf and let it gather dust."

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

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