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Agreement gives ArtCenter chance to expand

BRADENTON — It appears ArtCenter Manatee will have a long-term future in the city, one that will allow it to grow and expand.

The City Council is expected to meet Wednesday to discuss an agreement between ArtCenter Manatee and Bradenton Riverfront Partners, the developers of Promenade at Riverwalk, that will allow the ArtCenter to stay at its current location for another 140 years.

The pact calls for swapping property the ArtCenter uses for parking east of its building on Third Avenue West for a parcel to the north along Ninth Street West, according to Ed Vogler II, a local attorney and one of the partners in Bradenton Riverfront Partners.

The agreement will allow the ArtCenter to become part of the developer’s lease, extending the remaining 20 years on its lease with the city to 140 years.

“This way the ArtCenter will become a permanent fixture,” Vogler said, “tying into recognizing the work Realize Bradenton has done.” With an extension of the ArtCenter’s lease, it ensures the creation of an art-related district along Third Avenue West from Ninth Street to the Manatee Player’s theater under construction at Seventh Street, Vogler said.

Bradenton Riverfront Partners envision a pair of four- or five-story residential buildings, a 94-room hotel and about 120,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space along that stretch of road.

Realize Bradenton, a non-profit group that promotes the arts, culture and heritage of the city, has done a study that shows art is an economic force for downtown.

ArtCenter Treasurer William Mears said Monday negotiations with Bradenton Riverfront Partners have been ongoing for 10 years.

“The board was determined to stay downtown and on this site,” Mears said. “It’s a perfect match for the center and the theater.”

He said Realize Bradenton’s efforts and plans for the Artisan’s Avenue to connect the Village of the Arts and the waterfront along the Manatee River will benefit everyone in the area.

The city owns the land but various entities, including the ArtCenter and Bradenton Riverfront Partners, have long-term leases to develop the property.

If the agreement is approved, the extended lease will allow the ArtCenter to make long-term plans for expanding and renovating its building, Mears said.

“Before, with only 20 years left, no one would want to put any money into the building,” he said.

Mayor Wayne Poston said the agreement would not only benefit the two parties, but the community at-large.

“It’s perfect timing,” Poston said. “With Realize Bradenton beginning to implement its plans, everything is falling into place.”

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