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Is downtown streetscaping one project too many for city coffers? Maybe

Downtown Bradenton’s streetscaping project is carrying a hefty price tag that needs to be reduced if the project is to get off the ground on schedule to be completed in time for the end of construction on the new hotel and parking garage.
Downtown Bradenton’s streetscaping project is carrying a hefty price tag that needs to be reduced if the project is to get off the ground on schedule to be completed in time for the end of construction on the new hotel and parking garage. Bradenton Herald

With a planned downtown Bradenton streetscaping project now expected to cost between $6 million and $7 million, it may not be affordable and begs the question of why it was even planned in the middle of a construction boom if the money wasn’t going to be available.

Economic Development Director Carl Callahan told the city council Tuesday that the cost was expected to be around $2 million but with a project full of wish-list items, estimated costs have skyrocketed. Officials will rework some of the design elements in an upcoming workshop to cut out the proverbial project fat and divide the project into yearly phases, but without sacrificing the use of high-quality, low-maintenance construction materials.

Old Main Street, from the Manatee River to Sixth Avenue West, would be the priority and those driving the project want that first phase to start as quickly as possible.

“It’s important to understand that this project has gone through multiple processes and the goal was always to be flexible to have the best ability to adapt to the budget,” said Bradenton Downtown Development Authority board member Mike Carter. “But our goal also was to have the streetscape be completed with the parking garage and hotel so it all came together simultaneously. Our timing still looks good to do Old Main during the summer when downtown is least active. I’m concerned if we wait that we’ll miss that window and will have the street torn up when the hotel and other improvements are open.”

With a $12 million investment looming for the new City Centre parking garage, the Riverwalk eastward expansion, the doubling the size of the historic Mineral Springs Park and other projects, there is only so much funding to go around for the next two fiscal years. Callahan said he expected a couple of million for the streetscaping project, but total funding of $3.5 million is available.

Phase one was supposed to include improving the connection to the Village of the Arts, which now will not be included, but added to a later phase to help keep costs down.

It’s been a lengthy process to get the streetscaping project to a point where a council vote will be necessary soon to meet the goal of at least getting Old Main Street completed in conjunction with the other projects.

If left as is, phase one remains the most expensive phase with a $3.5 million price tag. That number will have to come down to make the project feasible and it’s now up to the city council to try and eliminate certain elements while still making a significant improvement to downtown. The recommendation from Carter to council for now, is to approve the design firm of Kimley Horn and John Swift Construction to continue the design work.

Callahan advised the council Wednesday not to take action and bring the project to a workshop to discuss the project.

“The cost is sizable,” he said. “But there is room to mix and match some things and I don’t believe everything in the plan now needs to go forward and that can reduce the cost. I’m not asking for a vote today but to discuss the costs and think about how to accomplish it with all of our other priorities in mind.”

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