BRADENTON -- A site that was, at one time, considered by some as the hub of the black community in Bradenton will be demolished in order to make room for new development.
Bradenton’s Central Community Redevelopment Agency voted Thursday night in favor of the demolition of the former 13th Avenue Community Center, at 201 13th Ave. W. The space had been vacant ever since the center moved its operations to east Bradenton in 2010 and became the 13th Avenue Dream Center.
“It was the one other place where blacks could socialize, besides church,” said Norma Dunwoody, 77, of the community center, founded in the 1930s. “But it will be OK, because they will finally have a grocery store in the community.”
The CCRA approved a development agreement Thursday night, paving the way for new businesses in the area along the First Street and 13th Avenue West area.
An “urban format” grocery store and about eight other businesses are expected to be built within a year.
Urban format grocery stores are pedestrian-friendly and cater to the specific needs and demands of a community, according to Timothy Polk, the CCRA’s interim director.
Cary Neil, principal of New Start Group, a team of developers working on the upcoming project, said they hope to bring a healthy food alternative to the community along with several other businesses that would improve the neighborhood.
A demolition date was not set at the CCRA meeting and up to $25,000 were allocated for associated costs.
The city’s Public Works Department will handle the work, which may involve approximately 506 tons of construction debris, according to CCRA documents. The estimated cost could be less if some of the materials are recycled, the documents said.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Irene Ingram-Bailey, CCRA vice chair. “I attended the center as a child, it was the place to go.”
Ingram-Bailey said she went to the center for after-school activities and to play sports.
“It was the only place I was allowed to go,” Ingram-Bailey, 53, said.
Over the years, she said, support for the location decreased and the facility became difficult to maintain.
Despite the loss of the community center, Ingram-Bailey said she is pleased that a grocery store will take over the location and serve the surrounding residents, particularly the elderly.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” she said.
The project is expected to cost around $6 million and will be partly funded by the federal government through the New Markets Tax Credit program.
The program grants tax credits to individuals and developers who invest in low-income communities.
Dunwoody said the community center was a popular venue for proms and other social events in the 30s and 40s.
“It was the only thing we really had at the time,” said Dunwoody.
Dunwoody, president of the resident association at Bradenton Village, an apartment complex near the proposed site for the new stores, said that a lot of the senior citizens were “very enthused” about the future development. Yet, the residents asked that a laundromat be one of the businesses in the shopping center.
She said that although some residents were once sad about the community center’s relocation, they’ve gotten used to the change and are ready for new options.
“Everyone is anticipating the grocery store,” Dunwoody said.
Miriam Valverde, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024.