BRADENTON — Plans to establish a pedestrian corridor through downtown and a walkway along the Manatee River took one more step toward becoming a reality.
The Downtown Development Authority on Tuesday approved the hiring of a project manager for the Artisan Avenue and Riverwalk projects.
Mike Kennedy, director of the DDA, said the two projects are at the stage where someone needs to be designated to pilot them through the various processes to completion.
“These are important projects,” Kennedy said. “There’s a lot of planning and design to be done, and we need someone on board to manage both projects.”
A group of downtown business owners presented the Artisan Avenue idea to the Bradenton City Council and Manatee County Commission last spring.
The plan will create a walkable area along 11th Street West through existing courtyards and passageways, connecting the Village of the Arts with the downtown waterfront.
The Riverwalk project is an enhancement of the public space along the river from the Green Bridge to Sixth Street East, with lighting, benches, landscaping and other amenities.
Kennedy said the projects are conceptual, but with a project manager the plans will proceed more quickly.
Attorney Cliff Walters, who was one of the originators of the Artisan Avenue plan along with architect Rick Fawley and contractor Mike Carter, said the project would have an impact on the property along the corridor.
“People who want to be smart should take advantage and jump on this,” Walters said. Cork Miller, owner of Cork’s Cigar Bar on Main Street and a member of the DDA, said the agency decided to hire the project manager because the position was needed to make the projects successful.
Miller saw the project attracting more people downtown just as Get Down Downtown draws people from all over the county and other areas.
“Anything to enhance the downtown would be heading in the right direction,” he said. “It will bring more shops, more restaurants and more nightlife downtown, which will be better for downtown and Bradenton because it will provide more taxes.”
Carter, who owns several buildings along Main Street, said the DDA needed to bring a project manager onboard to handle the two projects.
“It’s a significant step and commitment of the DDA,” he said. “Having someone not distracted with other responsibilities is key to its success.”
He said there was an immediate benefit to the Artisan Avenue project with the linking of the various parking structures to the City Centre, the Manatee County Administration Building and the Judicial Center.
“This will provide easier access to these important places now,” Carter said. “But just like a new roadway, traffic will increase with use and spur long-term development opportunities for property owners.”
The project manager will coordinate the planning, design and implementation of the projects.
A description of the job qualifications and the plans for the two projects can be viewed on the Downtown Development Authority Web site at www.ddabradenton.com.