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New lease gives 140 more years to ArtCenter

BRADENTON — With the approval of a revised lease agreement, the Bradenton City Council ensured ArtCenter Manatee 140 more years of life.

During a special meeting Wednesday, the council terminated the remaining 20 years on a lease it had with the ArtCenter for about two acres of property on land sometimes referred to as the Sandpile and approved a new lease with Bradenton Riverfront Partners, which includes the art organization land.

“We can now move along with our plans,” said ArtCenter Treasurer William Mears. “Before this, our lease ended in 20 years, and that seems like a long time, but it’s not (when deciding) to put a lot of money into a building.”

The new arrangement, which gives the ArtCenter the extra years at the location it has called home for more than 50 years, was the result of about 10 years of negotiations.

The ArtCenter’s old lease included about two acres of land between Ninth and Seventh streets west, along Third Avenue West.

With the new deal the 60-plus-year-old art organization forfeits rights to the property to the east of its building, but can now expand to the north on land along Ninth Street West between the ArtCenter and a parking structure for the River Dance condominium.

In exchange, the ArtCenter falls under Bradenton Riverfront Partners’ long-term lease, which expires in 140 years.

The agreement also ensures the ArtCenter will not lose its rights to remain in its building if the developer defaults on its lease, Ed Vogler II, a local attorney and a partner in Bradenton Riverfront Partners, told the city council.

“We’re very pleased with the agreement,” Vogler said after the council meeting. “It was always intended that the ArtCenter remain a permanent fixture in downtown Bradenton.”

During the many years of negotiations, proposals were put forth to move the ArtCenter building to another location within the area of the Sandpile that Bradenton Riverfront Partners control, including next to the new 300-seat Manatee Players theater under construction on Third Avenue West, east of Seventh Street West.

But with the ArtCenter maintaining its prominent location at Ninth Street and Third Avenue, it provides Bradenton Riverfront Partners art and culture anchors to the parcel on Third Avenue West it plans on developing.

Those plans include a 500-seat restaurant, a 94-room hotel, 56,000 square feet of commercial retail space and 14,000 square feet of office space.

With the new agreement it is now possible for the ArtCenter to seek funding for expansion or renovation plans.

“They now have a chance to go to the community, donors and grant providers and talk about their programs,” Vogler said.

Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey said during the meeting that she wanted to make the public aware of why a special meeting had to be called.

Vogler said the city had to approve the deal before Jan. 1 for the developer to take advantage of tax benefits.

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