To the northeast of the new Villages at Riverwalk housing development, between the 1000 block of Manatee Avenue West and the Manatee River, sits a pristine 1.5 acres of undeveloped land with about 220 feet of riverfront.
The land sits directly north of the 1.5 acres that make up the city’s historic Mineral Springs Park, and now both parcels will belong to the city. On Wednesday, the city council approved paying $700,000 to buy the land, which achieves a double goal of expanding Mineral Springs Park and ensuring a connection to a future eastward expansion of the Riverwalk.
Economic Development Director Carl Callahan said negotiations had been in the works even while the city was taking heat from some for relocating Glazier Gates Park, which is still slated to be built on land directly to the north of its former location. Under a land swap, the developer of Villages at Riverwalk will obtain land north of the relocated Glazier-Gates Park for housing along the river.
Callahan said it’s something neighbors prefer over an open park near their homes.
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“We knew when we took down Glazier Gates that we were taking down a very beautiful park so we wanted to make sure we had a new very beautiful park,” he said. “We were beat up through that process, but we knew what we were trying to do and are excited about getting this going.”
This reinforces both the ties with the community and the history.
Councilman Bemis Smith
Councilman Bemis Smith, who spearheaded the deal, said the nature of real estate deals prohibited the city from going public until now.
“We had to be fairly quiet about the whole thing,” Smith said. “This sits at the far eastern edge of the Bradenton CRA and adds one more thing to an already beautiful area that carries a lot of history. Indian Springs was primarily the reason this area got settled and developed in the 1840s and there was a battle there during the Third Seminole War. This reinforces both the ties with the community and the history.”
Vice Mayor Patrick Roff said he was initially dismayed at the number of trees that had to be removed for the Villages at Riverwalk development, but said this deal actually gives the city more trees than what was lost.
“What we are basically requiring is a forest,” Roff said. “If we did a tree count at the original park compared to the new park we are probably ahead. The beauty of this deal is not only the number of trees but the variety and that it all sits on the riverfront. I think we came out way ahead.”
Smith said the city can do some interesting things with its newest park land, including building a connection to the nearby Manatee County Historical Park.
“I was sorry to see the trees at Glazier-Gates Park go away, but the combination of what we have on the new property and what we will do will make it a more functional and more impressive park in the future,” Smith said.