Like many people during the opioid epidemic, Dr. Syed Zaidi, who wants to open a new addictions treatment center in Bradenton, has a personal story and wants to take that journey and apply it to those suffering in the area.
“I wanted to open this facility because I have two sons, both who were in medical school, but my youngest became addicted to drugs and was kicked out,” Zaidi said. “I had to struggle for his recovery. I took him all over the country to find him help. He’s finally clean and back to life. I know what difficulties I faced to get him treated, so I want to help people.”
The city council voted 3-2 Wednesday to allow Zaidi to open a new treatment center near LECOM Park in Bradenton.
Zaidi is a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at Baypines VA Hospital in St. Petersburg working with veterans suffering from addiction, as well as heavily involved in homeless programs.
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Zaidi purchased what used to be the old Manatee County juvenile detention center in the 1800 block of Fifth Street West for $265,000 in March of last year. The property, which is adjacent to the current detention center, was last owned by Centerstone of Florida. It has been vacant for a few years.
At the proposed Sunrise Addiction Recovery Center, Ziadi wants to start a 20-bed long-term residential treatment program. He said he plans a significant financial investment into the building’s renovation, transforming it from a haven dozens of feral cats to a tranquil recovery facility.
With the existing detention facility directly to the east and the Manatee County vehicle maintenance yard to the north, city staff didn’t feel like there would be any future use for the building other than Zaidi’s proposal.
As much as the facility is needed, it was the location that pitted two council members, Vice Mayor Gene Brown and Councilman Bemis Smith, against the proposal.
“If you have not been touched by the drugs out there, either yourself or through family or friends, this is an important situation,” Brown said. “But we are trying to make this area an entertainment district and I can’t support this. If we ever want that area to change, we have to change what we do. If we continue to put in things that can’t be moved, we’ll never be able to update that area.”
Not far away is LECOM Field and the area of Ninth Street West the city has long wanted to make an entertainment district.
Smith said the proposed treatment center and the nearby Bill Galvano One Stop Center are creating a “social services community.“
Smith said Zaidi’s is a good project, but “We are self-defeating when we are trying to promote all things that go along with the ball park and basically what I see here is a conflicting use to that.”
Myra Schwarz, planning and development coordinator, said, “There really is not anything else you can do with this building unless you tore it down and started over. The city has a dire problem with substance abuse and although this is a private facility, staff believes in its in the public interest. It’s a chance to get the property cleaned up and offer a service badly needed.”
The majority of the council agreed.
“It will be a well run asset to this community and an opportunity to save souls and that’s a wonderful thing,” said Councilman Patrick Roff.
Smith and Brown cast the dissenting votes.