BRADENTON -- The Downtown Development Authority on Tuesday OK’d up to $5,000 for a festive groundbreaking ceremony next month after construction on the city’s Riverwalk enhancement project officially kicked off last week.
“Try not to spend five grand,” remarked authority member Cork Miller after the board approved the expenditure.
The groundbreaking is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Sept. 19, with the location still to be announced, said David Gustafson, executive director of the authority, which met at Bradenton City Hall.
“Certainly, our goal is to have a nice event,” said Gustafson, who added that the public will be invited. Authority board member Vernon DeSear is slated to emcee, he said.
“We’re really excited about it,” Gustafson told the board.
Although it won’t be obvious for some time, work on the $6.2 million Riverwalk has begun, and is expected to continue for 10 months to a year, officials said.
The project is slated to begin at about 14th Street West at the Manatee River, and will follow the riverbank east to about Sixth Street Northeast, concluding at Tarpon Point, according to the plans.
Among its amenities will be a “great lawn,” where yoga or tai chi classes could take place; an arbor swing overlooking the river; a renovated fishing pier; a shaded bandshell; a family activity area with an interactive fountain and plaza; and an upgraded playground.
Also planned for the 15-acre project are sand volleyball courts and a plaza with an existing veterans memorial, along with a relocated EMS memorial.
The city is still finishing design details for a skate park, officials said.
In other action Tuesday, the board heard from Brian Long, director of development for The Widewaters Group Inc., which is negotiating with the DDA for money to help restore the former Manatee River Hotel, better known as “The Pink Palace.”
The two sides are about $1.76 million apart, Long said, saying, “We seem to have kind of gotten down in the weeds on this thing.”
He noted that in one year, money contributed by the DDA toward the project would return to the community in the form of paying hotel guests, who Long said could be expected to spend $50 per night each downtown, or $2.5 million per year.
“For businesses downtown, there’s no better incentive to bring people downtown,” he added.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.