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Realize Bradenton conducts online surveys for Riverwalk

BRADENTON — Want to weigh in with your ideas for Bradenton’s Riverwalk enhancement project? Now’s your chance.

Realize Bradenton is conducting an online survey for the physical enhancements area residents would like for the waterfront, as well as what they’d like to do there.

“We’re in this incredible position of having this beautiful river,” said Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton. “It’s a good asset, but we want to make it a great asset for residents and visitors.”

Survey results will be considered for Riverwalk’s master plan, drafted by design team Kimley Horn. Following the survey, a public meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. July 15 at the Courtyard by Marriott, where several preliminary concepts will be unveiled.

“We’ll ask residents to give us opinions as to what they will be willing to support,” said Dale Weidemiller, Riverwalk and Artisan Avenue project manager for the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority.

Realize Bradenton and its cultural partners will also use the survey to help plan future downtown events.

The short survey — which can be found at surveymonkey.com/s/realizebradenton — has questions ranging from “What improvement would bring you to the riverfront more often?” to a fill-in-the-blank on what you would want in a new Singing River Festival. Deadline to complete the survey is July 1.

By the end of last week, nearly 400 surveys had been completed. Out of those, 81 percent said they want to see more places to eat along the riverfront. The wish list includes more casual dining restaurants followed by a riverfront tiki bar, Isham said.

Besides more dining options, many residents expressed the need for more shaded areas.

Thirty-five percent also said they wanted a public boat dock on the riverfront.

When it comes to what brings people out to the Riverwalk, 50 percent of those surveyed said walking. Twelve percent come solely to walk their dogs and 13 percent spend their time there for the monthly Reels on Rossi.

As for riverfront entertainment, 50 percent of those surveyed said they’d like to hear more jazz artists on the river, while 35 percent prefer more blues. And though classic stage musicals draw a big crowd at the Manatee Players, 49 percent said they would enjoy seeing contemporary plays.

Anna Pohl, events coordinator for Realize Bradenton, said residents can expect more outdoor theater planned for 2011 at Rossi Park’s amphitheater. The genre of theater will depend on the surveys.

In the meantime, attendance to downtown events — such as Reels at Rossi’s free family films and the annual Jazz Festival — has been up this season with the biggest increase being for the Bradenton Farmers Market, Pohl said.

Pohl said attendance at the weekend market has doubled with as many as 3,000 people during the season’s peak to see new attractions such as the Mainly Art bazaar and demonstrations by local chefs.

But Pohl would like to see more foot traffic across the board for all downtown events.

“The more people come to downtown, the better it is for our vendors,” Pohl said. “It also is good for the vibe of downtown that we’re starting to get.”

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