Business Columns & Blogs

Pat Neal: Unique opportunity to revitalize West Bradenton, promote economic development

Developer Carlos Beruff’s proposed Aqua by the Bay project is scheduled to go back before the planning commission on Thursday. This is a view of the site on July 24, 2017. Aqua by the Bay is Beruff’s latest proposal to develop 2,894 homes on 529 acres between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay.
Developer Carlos Beruff’s proposed Aqua by the Bay project is scheduled to go back before the planning commission on Thursday. This is a view of the site on July 24, 2017. Aqua by the Bay is Beruff’s latest proposal to develop 2,894 homes on 529 acres between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay. ttompkins@bradenton.com

Businesses often consider size, future growth and the skills of an area’s workforce when it comes to future investment in a region. Tropicana, formerly Bradenton’s Florida’s largest private employer, moved its headquarters to Chicago more than a decade ago, and major boat manufacturers, including Donzi Marine, Wellcraft Marine and Hydro-Sport Boats relocated their local operations amidst the recession and transferred employees to other cities.

Today, Aqua by the Bay, a proposed community located just south of 53rd Avenue West, between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay, would serve as another anchor of jobs and economic activity for an area overdue for investment. The embrace of another mixed-use facility blossomed into an economic boon for the region whose further potential for growth remains to be seen.

Since the completion of Perico Bay Club in 1992, there have been few large-scale new, non-infill construction projects located west of 14th Street. It is time to kick-start local investment in the community’s western sector.

The Aqua by the Bay plan would transform a swath of unused grazing land into a vibrant, walkable mixed-use community that would revitalize the area while preserving the natural mangrove waterfront. The proposed Aqua by the Bay will also generate significant revenue for the local government, provide long-term positive economic development for the region and create thousands of jobs.

The nearby IMG Academy campus has steadily grown, expanding to 584 acres, bringing with it jobs and a massive economic impact. IMG’s economic impact on the region in 2014, including jobs provided by construction on a 15-year expansion project, was reported as much as $715 million. IMG has served as a home to students from around the globe, athletes who have gone on to earn international acclaim, and others who otherwise would never have discovered Bradenton on the map.

The proposed Aqua by the Bay neighborhood would serve as another valuable addition to the offerings and represents the continued investment in the future. The residential and retail offerings central to this improvement of a long-dormant plot of land will create a new vibrancy in West Bradenton. More importantly, it carries promise of more jobs, space for businesses to operate within, and attractive housing options for current and future residents.

As Florida grows, Bradenton has the opportunity to lead by example, further proving – as it has with IMG – that ambitious new development like Aqua by the Bay can bring an economic uptick that will further improve the community’s appeal to residents and visitors.

Pat Neal is former state senator and is the president of Neal Communities. He can be reached at pneal@nealcommunities.com.

  Comments