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New 13th Ave. Community Center advancing

BRADENTON — With the city council’s approval Wednesday of the realignment of property lines, the construction of a new 13th Avenue Community Center moves closer to reality.

Under a land exchange with the operator of the planned center, the city is receiving back two pieces of land near Ninth Avenue West and 24th Street West that it had given the community center in 2006.

In return, the community center is receiving an adjacent parcel.

The move will allow the community center to receive state funds to construct a basketball court and parking lot, which must be on city property, according to City Clerk Carl Callahan.

The dream of constructing a new community center near Norma Lloyd Park to replace the aging building at 13th Avenue West and First Street, has been on the drawing board for at least five years.

Officials with United Community Centers, which operates the 13th Avenue facility and the Rubonia Community Center, have been raising enough funds to make the dream a reality.

Councilman Harold Byrd Jr., whose ward includes the community center’s old and new sites, said the city planning commission will soon review the plans for the new building.

“They’re going through the channels to get the special use permits needed,” Byrd said after the council meeting Wednesday. “Patrick (Carnegie, executive director of United Community Centers) is pretty confident they’ll be digging ground in a couple of months.”

Carnegie did not return messages left at his office.

The center is the legacy of the late Minnie Rogers, who founded the center almost 70 years ago to provide recreation and education opportunities for the youth of the surrounding, mostly minority community.

The location of the new center near Norma Lloyd Park, which is undergoing a rehabilitation program, will provide access to new playground, soccer field and baseball fields.

“This is a win-win situation,” Byrd said. “The children will have a new facility, and it will provide economic benefit.”

He was referring to plans for the construction of a grocery store on the site of the old community center.

The Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency has had conversations with developers about the grocery store, Byrd said.

“It will not only provide jobs at the grocery story,” he said, “but also construction jobs.”

Locating the new youth center east of the six-lane First Street also will alleviate the dangerous conditions of children crossing the busy highway.

But it also will create a problem for the children in the Singletary Estates and Rogers Garden neighborhoods, which are on the west side of First Street.

“I’ve been trying to assist the Boys and Girls Club (which is on Ninth Street West) in expanding their programs,” Byrd said, “where they can take the kids from those neighborhoods that go to the community center.

“We have to make sure recreational facilities are available for them,” he said. “Also, United Communities will be providing transportation.”