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Tired of downtown construction? More is coming in 2019

Construction crews are expected to remain busy in Bradenton in 2019, picking up where they left off last year.

Most notably for 2019 perhaps is the planned eastward expansion of Riverwalk. The expansion will begin where Riverwalk currently ends behind Manatee Memorial Hospital, and run along Riverwside Drive East to Sixth Street Northeast.

Riverwalk will resume on the other side of Riverside Drive East to 14th Street East, ending at the expanded Mineral Springs Park.

Remaining to be answered is how to connect the two sections at where Tarpon Point extends into the Manatee River.

New riverwalk map.jpg

The city essentially has two options to resolve the challenge and both remain on the table.

The least expensive option is to improve Sixth Street East to Manatee Avenue East, head to east to Ninth Street East and then back north toward the river.

It’s not the preferred option by residents, but the only other option is to construct an expensive boardwalk around Tarpon Point to create a true connection.

The project remains in the design phase and costs have yet to be outlined. However, work has begun on the newly expanded Mineral Springs Park in anticipation of the expansion beginning this year.

“We are actually doing some work over there now,” said Mayor Wayne Poston. “We are working on the waterfront area trying to determine what trees need to come out or go in. We are also doing the strategy on the public dock we will have there and trying to determine the right size. We are just getting prepared for what’s to come as far as the expansion is concerned.”

The expansion won’t feature a lot of the amenities on the current 1.5-mile stretch of Riverwalk. Realize Bradenton sums up the theme for the expansion by noting, “Think walking, biking, jogging, birdwatching, painting and photography.”

Streetscaping

Also in 2019,, a planned downtown streetscaping project should break ground in downtown.

The $5.6 million project will kick off along Old Main Street from First Avenue West to Sixth Avenue West.

Third Avenue West along the new City Centre parking garage and Fourth Avenue West from 10th Street West to Old Main also are in phase one. Later phases include more of 10th and 13th streets west.

The scope of work includes removing existing brick pavers in favor of decorative concrete, better lighting, wider sidewalks, improved landscaping and potentially the creation of gathering places.

The goal is to enhance downtown while simultaneously making it easier to walk to the Village of the Arts and to the Riverwalk.

The primary concern has been the possible impact of construction on downtown businesses and while the city hasn’t provided a lot of detail on that subject, Poston said the city has engaged the Downtown Merchants Association.

“We will do what is necessary to be the least disturbing to those businesses,” Poston said. “We’ve talked about that a lot and it’s sometimes difficult for people to deal with change but like everything else we do, if we are going to do it, we want to do it right.”

Poston said work won’t begin until after the new Spring Hill Suites hotel and the parking garage are completed. Final designs are expected early this year and a contractor is already in place.

What’s wrapping up?

The $17 million Spring Hill Suites hotel should be completed in the next two to three months, as well as the City Centre Parking garage, which will feature some ground floor retail along Old Main Street. The hotel will feature a tiki bar and Oak & Stone will occupy the rooftop restaurant space.

The $4.5 million expansion of the Twin Dolphin Marina also should be completed in the next few months with new dock that will be able to accommodate larger boats.

The first phase of a $12 million expansion of the South Florida Museum expansion should be completed by spring, featuring the new Mosaic Backyard Universe.

The John & Rebecca Neal Park across from Ballard Elementary School was completed in the spring of 2018, featuring an ideal launching point into Ware’s Creek for kayak and canoe enthusiasts, and a community garden.

The Florida Department of Transportation has completed its widening of the walking trail on the Green Bridge, as well as improvements at the intersection of Third Avenue West and Ninth Street West. A $500,000 pedestrian safety improvement project on Eighth Avenue West from Ninth Street West to 14th Street West is currently underway.

Other happenings

Once the South Florida Museum’s current project is completed, it is expected to move into the second phase with interior renovations, including to the Bishop Planetarium.

The Art Center of Manatee announced in December plans for a major expansion, featuring a new building and improvements to the city’s Green Bridge gateway with open green space and a sculpture garden. Poston called the project “simply gorgeous.”

There is currently no construction timetable for the project, however. Another unknown for 2019 is a planned expansion of the Westminster retirement community in downtown.

“We’re still moving forward with new projects,” Poston said. “The focus right now is to finish the projects on the drawing board that fits the scale and scope of what this city is because Bradenton is a different than most communities. We are not going to lose our sense of Bradenton. It’s always going to be a place where people look out for and take care of each other. We don’t want to be Sarasota or St. Pete. We have our unique lifestyle.”

Breaking News/Real Time Reporter Mark Young began his career in 1996 and has been with the Bradenton Herald since 2014. He has won more than a dozen awards over the years, including the coveted Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting from the Florida Press Club and for beat reporting from the Society for Professional Journalists to name a few. His reporting experience is as diverse as the communities he covers.
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