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Manatee County backing $125,000 grant for 'Pink Palace'

BRADENTON -- The Manatee County Commission has tentatively approved giving $125,000 in economic development incentives to a company set to renovate the “Pink Palace.”

The resolution approved Tuesday also would provide some parking for the project at a county-owned lot, one block southwest of the hotel site at 309 10th St. W. in downtown Bradenton.

The parking clause disturbed County Commissioner Joe McClash, who cast the sole vote against the resolution.

“I support the downtown redevelopment of the hotel,” he told the commission, but said he opposes allowing hotel patrons to use surface parking spaces owned by the county.

Attorney Will Robinson, who represents the developer, said parking is a key aspect of the renovation package.

The hotel chain partnering with The Widewaters Group Inc., which hopes to turn the building into a Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel, requires 125 parking spaces, he said.

“Without adequate parking, or if guests are uncomfortable with the parking, they won’t come back,” Robinson said.

The commission is expected to review the matter again within the next few weeks, officials said.

The former Manatee River Hotel, built in 1926, fell into disrepair and has been vacant several years. The Widewaters Group is expected to invest more than $12 million to renovate the historic structure, and Bradenton’s Downtown Development Authority has already promised more than $2.5 million in economic development incentives. In other action, the board elected John Chappie as its new chairman.

He replaces Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who was elected chairman of the Tourist Development Council.

Elected as commission vice-chairman is Commissioner Larry Bustle. Commissioner Joe McClash was chosen as 2nd vice-chairman, and Commissioner Robin DiSabatino will serve as 3rd vice-chairman.

Bustle was also re-elected chairman of the Manatee County Port Authority, which oversees Port Manatee, while Whitmore was elected as the authority’s 1st vice-chair. DiSabatino will be 2nd vice-chair, and Commissioner Michael Gallen will be 3rd vice-chair.

The board also OK’d 6-1, with McClash dissenting, to renew lobbying services at the federal level with the firm of Twenty-First Century Group, Inc. at a cost of $240,000 annually.

“The scope of work for this renewal agreement calls for the Twenty-First Century Group to continue working to protect Wares Creek from any funding rescissions as may be recommended by the (U.S. Army) Corps (of Engineers),” wrote county Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker in a background discussion.

The firm will also lobby for beach renourishment money; identify grant opportunities for the Automated Traffic Management System; and begin pursuing funding to build the Port Manatee Connector Road, Hunsicker wrote. The connector road would be a limited-access highway linking the port to Interstate 75.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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