Realize Bradenton prepares to launch 'Pop-ups for a Purpose'

BRADENTON -- Since being named as one of 32 winners to receive a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Knight Cities Challenge, Realize Bradenton has been coordinating partners and input to launch its ReuseReConnect project: "Pop-ups for a Purpose."

The project receive $90,000 as part of an effort to make downtown Bradenton a more attractive place for younger residents, or "millennials," to live, work and play, by organizing various "pop- up" events.

Realize Bradenton held the final of several community meetings Tuesday at the Bradenton Central Library, featuring design concepts from University of South Florida students. USF teacher Taryn Sabia tasked her grad students with not only investigating underutilized areas of the city for pop-up events, but addressed

details to ensure materials to set up events would require minimal effort in keeping with the temporary theme of the events.

Sabia told her students no heavy materials could be used, but they still have to come up with something to "take the ordinary and make it extraordinary."

The students responded by creating a variety of uses for hula hoops, milk crates and zip ties to make furniture, barriers, shelters, lights and art pieces. Several potential pop-up projects were presented to a packed house of community and city leaders.

USF student Kendrick Henrey evaluated the city's shuffle board courts "and wanted to figure out how to meet the goal of bridging the gap between millennials and other generations."

Henrey looked at the sport of shuffleboarding first and equated it to bowling. He then looked at how bowling has evolved with music and lighting to the popular "cosmic bowling" atmosphere of today.

"I was thinking we could do the same thing with the shuffleboard courts," he said as he introduced his "cosmic shuffleboard" concept, complete with LED lighting and milk-crate seating areas.

Sanchelle Lee introduced a concept for Old Main Street by B'Towne Coffee for an outdoor social area using the uniquely created milk-crate seating for reading and book sharing.

Kayla Baker came up with an idea for the Village of the Arts to better use space for more festival-type activities. But she didn't stop there, designing the whole experience to be underneath a hula-hoop dome complete with hanging lights.

Realize Bradenton Executive Director Johnette Isham said the focus of this project, and the overall effort to entice the younger generation, "is the future of our city and economic development. But it's not just about the millennial generation, it's about bridging the gap between generations and groups."

Realize Bradenton is currently putting together a schedule for the events.

"These are events you are going to want to come to," Isham said. "There will be beverages, food, dancing and surprises. The purpose is to engage with multiple generations about important topics. Downtown is everybody's neighborhood."

Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo agrees. A resident for more than 60 years, he said, "I remember a time in the city when downtown was a very vibrant area because everything you needed was there. I saw that fade away and I'm really excited to see what the (Bradenton Downtown Development Authority) and the young people are bringing back to the city."

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.