Frustration remains evident as efforts renew to redevelop three acres on the corner of 13th Avenue West and First Street, the site of a failed Save-A-Lot grocery project.
Those frustrations began well before a 2012 groundbreaking ceremony — a ceremony that proved to be the only time a shovel entered the ground there.
Two developers and a nonprofit agency have submitted letters of interest to renew the development efforts abandoned by Wisconsin-based Endeavor Corps. On Wednesday, the city council remanded those proposals to the Community Redevelopment Agency’s advisory board to begin the vetting process.
But some old debates linger about blame and the necessity of a grocery store at that site.
Efforts began in 2006 to eliminate a food desert area of the city, which is defined as a lack of fresh groceries within a one-mile radius of low-income residents. Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith has opposed the project from the onset, initially because prior grocery stores in the area failed. With updated information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Smith said the area is not classified as a food desert and shouldn’t be the driving force of the project.
“Everybody can decide on a grocery store there, and I’m not opposed as long as it’s a fair and responsible development where we are taking care of the citizens’ tax dollars,” said Smith. “But I get frustrated when everyone keeps saying this is a food desert, and the USDA site says it’s not.”
Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo said he is particularly “aggravated over misinformation” that the city council is to blame for the failure of Milwaukee-based developer Endeavor Corp., the former would-be developer. While the city council had ultimate approval power, city administrator Carl Callahan said the city’s only role at the time was to help advise the CCRA through the process. He said the CCRA board at the time vetted and selected Endeavor.
The CCRA had a good opportunity to go bankrupt.
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston
“What we found out with Endeavor is that it was only a concept plan and when we did the groundbreaking, it was still a concept plan,” said Callahan. “We spent the next 18 months figuring out if Endeavor could actually do it.”
As it turned out, Endeavor could not do it even though the company had qualified for $6.5 million in federal tax credits and an additional $1.5 million in state tax credits. Endeavor president Randy Roth even stood before the council and said the project was “shovel ready,” only to try and change the terms of the development agreement late last year.
Minnie L. Rogers site timeline 2006: The CCRA board holds community meetings and determines a need for a grocery store. 2006-2011: The CCRA obtains the old community center property from the city, releases a Request for Proposal, vets and selects Endeavor Corps. 2012: Endeavor qualifies for $6.5 million in federal tax credits. 2012: City officials, CCRA staff and descendants of Minnie L. Rogers hold groundbreaking ceremony. 2013-2014: Endeavor makes further demands from the CCRA and receives several concessions, including free rights to the property, $45,000 a year for seven years, a $300,000 start up loan and requiring the CCRA to become the master lease holder for the retail component. 2014: Endeavor promises construction is at hand as soon as the CCRA concluded the permitting process. Permits are obtained, but construction never starts. 2015: Endeavor timelines for construction continue to come and go throughout the year. 2015: Bradenton sets a deadline for construction to begin. Deadline expires with no action. 2015: Endeavor claims rising costs of construction are the cause of the delays. Secures $1.5 million in state tax credits and tells the city that the project is “Shovel ready,” but fails to close on the $6.5 million in tax credits by a U.S. Bank Dec. 31 deadline. 2015: Endeavor returns to the city demanding another $750,000. City rejects changes to original development agreement. No response from Endeavor. 2016: The Bradenton City Council officially takes over authority of all three CRAs. 2016: Bradenton officials terminate development agreement with Endeavor. Project collapses and city officials start anew.
Roth wanted all of the same concessions the CCRA had already agreed to, such as giving the developer the land, paying them $45,000 a year and more. Roth also came back to the city and wanted an additional $750,000 in cash, which “was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Callahan. “We sent them notice that we would love for them to live by the original agreement and received no response. We ultimately had to say this is over and we’ll start over again and that’s where we are now.”
Mayor Wayne Poston said if the city had allowed the CCRA to agree to the terms of Endeavor’s latest demands, “The CCRA had a good opportunity to go bankrupt.”
Callahan said now that the city council is the CRA board, there will be a more efficient effort.
“Now we are at an opportunity to see what can happen on this site,” he said. “We are going to ask for a lot more information to know we are at the point that these people are capable of doing the job.”