MANATEE -- Suzanna Young has seen numerous changes in Bayshore Gardens since she moved there in 1993 and not all of them have been for the better.
There are the boarded-up houses, some of them charred during a recent rash of unsolved arson fires. Others are vacant with overgrown yards, casualties of the real estate boom and bust. And many of the homes now are occupied by younger tenants because the original owners, predominantly retirees, have died.
Despite the deterioration, Young and some of her neighbors refuse to give up on their neighborhood.
“There are people here fiercely devoted to the betterment of Bayshore Gardens and any help we can get, we would run with it,” said Young, a former Bayshore Gardens Homeowners Association president.
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They soon could be getting some from Manatee County.
County commissioners made plans Thursday for a work session later this year to discuss ways to revitalize Manatee’s older communities like Bayshore Gardens.
“We’re losing some very historic and important neighborhoods,” said Commissioner John Chappie, who raised the issue at the end of the board’s monthly land-use meeting. He called Bayshore Gardens “a good example,” citing the 1,400-home community’s unique architectural style. Many homes still have their original flat roofs, wide overhangs, jalousie windows and terrazzo floors, all hallmarks of the Sarasota School of Architecture style that was in fashion when the community began in the late 1950s.
But, like many older neighborhoods in western Manatee, Bayshore Gardens has not aged well.
The first generation of residents, primarily retirees from the Midwest, died off and bequeathed homes to children who either didn’t want them or rented them out. Builders, homebuyers and government services increasingly flocked to the county’s eastern side, leaving older neighborhoods feeling neglected.
“The people of Bayshore Gardens do feel like they’ve been bypassed,” Young said.
“It’s been a long time in coming and the time is now for us to do something,” said Commissioner Robin DiSabatino, who suggested the workshop. “We need to pay as much attention, if not more, to our older neighborhoods in our urban core because they’re the heart of our community.”
Commissioners suggested several possible ways to do that. Among them: Offering reduced or no impact fees for development in older areas, deploying more federal and state grant money toward older neighborhoods and adopting a stronger neighborhood preservation ordinance.
It’s not the first time commissioners have fretted over those neighborhoods’ fates.
In 2000, commissioners -- saying older communities had been ignored -- asked county planners to go into those areas and find out what their issues were.
One result was a 2001 improvement plan for Bayshore Gardens that led to the installation of entrance signs, $14 million in utility upgrades and a more active Crime Watch, said John Osborne, the county’s planning director.