BRADENTON -- A proposal to build 12 new homes in place of blighted structures, as well as the possibility of two waterfront parks in the Ballard Park area of the Historic Ware's Creek neighborhood, saw its first movement since July when the city began formulating a plan after months of community meetings.
On Monday, demolition crews tore down the last of four blighted structures on about 2.5 acres of property Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff has long called an "eyesore that harbored a notoriously wrong group of people."
Roff said final details have yet to be resolved on what will be placed on the six lots.
"I'm happy that part of it is done now and those eyesores are gone," he said.
City staff began meeting with residents more than a year ago to determine neighborhood designs for the property. The city preliminarily settled on two city parks and selling the rest of the acreage to a developer with stipulations home designs must fit in with the historic neighborhood.
Neal Communities Inc. of Lakewood Ranch purchased the properties on Ninth Avenue West, Eighth Avenue West, 17th Street West and
Ballard Park Drive, during the recession and ultimately sold them to the city at cost.
Roff said the next step is for the Bradenton City Council to again take up the matter, but a promise made by Fawley Bryant Architects Inc. of Bradenton last spring has yet to be delivered. Following a community meeting in April, the firm pledged to present conceptual drawings for the city to begin formulating a more detailed plan.
Roff said there won't be a lot of movement without those plans.
"It's not on the timetable I would have chosen, but the main thing for now is that the eyesores are gone," he said.
Ware's Creek project stalled
For most people in the Historic Ware's Creek neighborhood, the $52.7 million creek dredging and widening has been a huge success, but one stubborn thorn remains in the project's side.
The stretch of creek between 17th and 21st avenues west, one of the smallest portions of the project, could soon be a full year behind schedule.
Phase II, expected to be completed in May, stalled during issues with the contractor, Air Ideal of Winter Park, which was officially fired from the job in November. Air Ideal pulled up stakes much earlier after a dispute with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Hiring a new contractor was expected to be done by now, but Corps spokesman John Campbell said a deal is still being worked out with a bonding company.
"We were supposed to get some quotes by mid-December to get a new contractor in there, but I don't know what they've received," Campbell said. "That process does take some time."
Campbell said the remainder of the project continues to move forward without issues, but he did not have an updated timetable for completion.
The delay has upset residents who live on that section of the creek. While Roff said he empathizes but what's most important is the creek is functioning as designed and can protect residents from flooding.
"The flood control portion of the creek is done," said Roff. "It's torn up and doesn't look great. ... It's pretty cut and dried what needs to be done at this point and that is to secure the shorelines and make it look it better."
Most residents are happy now flooding issues appear to have been resolved and the overall look of the creek is healthy.
Michael Martines has lived in Ware's Creek off and on since 1990 and left for California just before the project began. Recently returning, he said: "One of the first things I did was to go look at the creek and thought it looked great. It used to be stopped up everywhere, there was a lot of trash in it and it never flowed at all. It made the water look pretty nasty, but that's the nice thing now. It looks clear and it flows all the way through."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.