MANATEE — Mr. Cheesecake owner Phyllis Dobbins knows first-hand the frustration of people who struggle to improve their 14th Street West Community Redevelopment Area neighborhood.
About six months ago, Dobbins replaced windows broken out of her business on 30th Avenue West during a 2007 break-in attempt with help from county redevelopment funding.
But just four months later, one of the same windows was knocked out again, the result of another break-in attempt.
That’s why Dobbins and other community leaders hope Saturday’s opening of the new Peace Community Park will be a step toward revitalizing the area and creating pride among neighbors.
“We’re very excited. I don’t think enough people really know about it yet. To get the whole community involved and realize we can clean this area up, it’s really important,” said Dobbins, who purchased the business four years ago.
There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the 3-acre park behind Peace Lutheran Church and School, 1611 30th Ave. W., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
The ceremony will feature complimentary refreshments, sports competitions and use of the park facilities.
The park has new playground equipment, a fenced-in basketball/volleyball court, a soccer field and a nine-hole disc golf course as well as picnic tables and shade trees.
The park is the result of a partnership between the county’s redevelopment agency and Peace Lutheran Church and School.
The project cost $135,743, according to Ivan Groom, the county’s redevelopment coordinator.
About 50 volunteers from the church and school, the redevelopment agency, Americorps VISTA and the community worked on the park.
Dobbins worked on picnic tables and wood trellises, she said.
Nathan Nolte, the principal at the school and a redevelopment agency advisory board member, said the idea came out of planning sessions that set priorities for the area.
“One of the things that was obviously lacking was public recreation options,” Nolte said.
“So the idea came up that we enjoy having the community use our facility, but it would be nice to have something updated for them to use.”
The park land is owned by Peace Lutheran Church and School, which has opened it for public use.
The park, which will be open from dawn to dusk, will be the first outdoor recreation area in the 14th Street CRA, an area bordered by the Bradenton city limits on the north, Cortez Road on the south, Ninth Street West on the east and 18th Street West on the west.
The community redevelopment areas are designed to attract new private funding and new building projects to a specific area, increase the tax base and encourage public and private improvements.
Dobbins said there are still skeptics in the neighborhood. She hopes the park’s opening will encourage optimism.
“They’re in the mind set that there are bad people here and nothing can be done,” she said. “But we hope this will lead to getting even more people involved.”