As downtown Bradenton enjoys a growth spurt of new restaurants and other business, funds are being made available to encourage restaurant expansion citywide.
Old Main Street and 13th Street West are the model of what can be achieved when older and formerly vacant buildings have room for a new restaurant but aren't already fitted for one.
With three new restaurants currently renovating space on 13th Street West, and possibly a French wine and cheese store, as well as other new and existing businesses, Bradenton is getting a lot of interest from family-owned and national chain restaurants alike.
"We are seeing a lot of activity," said Carl Callahan, economic development director.
The successful redevelopment of Old Main Street and the recent downtown expansion have been spurred by incentives funded by various grants. The biggest program was the Old Main Street program, under which the city offered $25,000 grants to building owners to help them retrofit older historic buildings in order to open a restaurant downtown.
Bradenton has multiple locations throughout the city ripe for redevelopment, but retrofitting those buildings to open a restaurant is a costly venture given the electrical and fire code requirements specific to the restaurant industry. With the success of Old Main Street and an expanding downtown restaurant scene, the city wants to create the same opportunities in east Bradenton and in the 14th Street Community Redevelopment Agency area.
"So we are creating a food and restaurant incentive program that used to be the Old Main Street program, but we want to expand it to the other CRAs," Callahan said. "We want to get this going soon because it's not going to be retroactive. It's only for the future because of the level of interest we are seeing."
Callahan said the funds cannot be used for restaurant equipment or other restaurant needs.
The new restaurants already planned for the 500 block of 13th Street West include a a European-style restaurant being opened by the owners of Palmetto Riverside Bed and Breakfast, Obscure Cafe and a new pizzeria.