Downtown Bradenton is about to change drastically — and those changes should begin by the end of this month, with site work starting for the $17 million Spring Hill Suites hotel at 102 Old Main Street.
Work on the hotel is slated to begin April 17, but activity on the site will begin in a matter of days, says Jason Bartz with NDC Construction. Several other major projects are set to begin within the next 12 to 14 months.
Downtown is about to get very busy, and potentially very dirty.
“But everyone needs to know today that we are all committed to an absolute minimum disruption as will be possible,” said downtown business owner Mike Carter, who is also on the steering committee for the upcoming downtown streetscaping project. The committee has just begun to detail the scope of work, but it will affect 10th to 13th streets west and get underway during the overall construction boom.
This massive construction coordination has been ongoing, with the goal of trying to do everything at once and ending around the same time.
“I hope they keep it as painless as possible,” said Jackie Erb, owner of Robin’s Cafe on Old Main Street. “It’s a little scary, because you can only hope all the construction doesn’t scare everyone away. We just have to trust that all involved are properly organizing and that they do it as quickly and as painlessly as possible.”
Robin’s Cafe employee Allison Smith said there are ways the city can make things easier.
“I’d like to see the city make sure there is adequate signage directing people where to go, especially for parking,” said Smith. “Our clientele is older and if there is no parking, they won’t even come.”
Business owners particularly fear the potential of having to shut off water, forcing them to close. Part of the streetscaping project initially included replacing sewer and water lines, but Public Works Director Jim McLellan said the lines are in better shape than anticipated. McLellan said the city would coordinate a stormwater project with the streetscaping work, but that businesses would not be cut off from their water.
That’s good news for The Fish Eats and Drinks manager Mandkhai Zorish, who doesn’t mind the prospect of being inconvenienced for construction.
“It’s about time for change,” Zorish said. “This place has a lot of potential and definitely needs something exciting, new and different. It’s a beautiful place and, in the end, I think it will be worth the disruption. But I don’t believe it will affect business for us. We have a lot of loyal customers, and I don’t think anything will stop them from coming in for what they want to eat and drink.”
New city garage
The construction of the Spring Hill Suites is being coordinated with the construction of a new City Centre parking garage, which will include retail on the ground floor. The garage is still in the design phase and costs are not finalized, but it’s expected to be completed by June 2018, same as the hotel. The city is dedicating 100 parking spaces to the hotel as part of a development agreement.
The garage will be built on the corner of Third Avenue West and Old Main Street, and the architectural design is expected to complement the downtown’s architecture and act as an extension of Old Main Street.
South Florida Museum expansion
▪ The first phase of a $12 million expansion of the South Florida Museum is expected to start later this year. The museum is monitoring the city’s progress with hopes of completing it around the same time as the hotel, garage and downtown streetscaping project.
According to Jessica Schubick, communications manager, construction drawings will be complete by this summer.
“Then we’ll go through the costing process and have an idea of when we’ll be ready to apply for the construction permit,” said Schubick, who noted fundraising continues for the full campus expansion plan.
“The main elements of our long-term plan remain the same,” Schubick said. That includes upgrades to the aquarium, renovating interior exhibitions and implementing the innovative and interactive Pathways program.
Schubick said the museum is working with the city to coordinate its initial construction, “so we can all work together. We should be able to set the groundbreaking date after we apply for permitting to begin the construction of the Mosaic Backyard Universe.”
Twin Dolphin Marina renovation
▪ The $5 million expansion and renovation of the Twin Dolphin Marina will also begin construction along with the hotel. A start date has not yet been set, but is expected to get underway by summer. The project includes the construction of 129 slips, replacing some existing slips; marina dredging; and floating dock upgrades.
$1.52M intersection improvement
▪ The Florida Department of Transportation’s $1.52 million intersection improvement project at Third Avenue West and Ninth Street West will be put out to bid later this year, with plans to begin construction some time after the first of the year.
The project includes the installation of dedicated right-hand turn lanes in the southbound lanes of Ninth Street West at both Third Avenue West and Manatee Avenue West. Existing lanes will be reduced to 10 feet wide and resurfacing of Ninth Street West is expected. Much of the work will be at night.
Pedestrian safety project
▪ FDOT’s Eighth Avenue West Pedestrian safety project also is expected to go to bid later this spring. The $500,000 project includes the installation of crosswalks and pedestrian safety islands along Eighth Avenue West. Lanes will be reduced to 11 feet wide and designated turn lanes are expected at each intersection between Ninth and 14th streets west. The city is coordinating a water main line replacement at the same time.
Other potential projects
▪ The downtown Westminster retirement community in the 100 block of Old Main Street is planning an extensive expansion of its facilities. According to board member and attorney Stephen Dye, the project is in the master planning phase and is not initially expected to coincide with the other projects. But downtown construction isn’t expected to end until the summer of 2018, and it remains a possibility that the expansion could begin within that time frame.
▪ Sunz Insurance is completing its transition from Sarasota to its new Bradenton headquarters. Sunz has been renovating the interior of the building and revealed its progress last week. Plans also include renovations to the exterior, which is expected to fall into the downtown construction time line.