Problems with the colored concrete force council to halt downtown sidewalk project

For months, sidewalks in downtown Bradenton have been a source of frustration for city officials.

Part of the city’s ongoing streetscape project, the concrete for the new sidewalks has not worked as planned, and some new sections of sidewalk have had to be torn up and rebuilt. The problems have even delayed the opening of the new City Centre parking garage.

After hearing another disappointing update on the progress of the project, the city council Wednesday voted unanimously to complete work on sidewalks currently under construction but to not start on new sections until officials re-evaluate the project.

“I think we’re going down a slippery slope right now that we need to get under control before we let it go any further,” said city council member Gene Brown.

The downtown streetscaping project, expected to cost around $6 million, includes infrastructure work, landscaping, lighting, benches and the sidewalks. City council will be able to decide what they want to move forward with at a later date, though a timeline was not discussed.

“I think we need to stop and regroup,” Brown said.

A blue strip of concrete that is slated to run between lighter and darker portions of new sidewalk along Old Main Street also is not pouring according to plan, city administrator Carl Callahan told council members Wednesday.

Council member Patrick Roff expressed similar concerns, saying what the city was promised and what was delivered seem to be two different things.

Part of the brown concrete that was poured in front of the new Manatee County Chamber of Commerce offices at parking garage apparently came out too light, according to Callahan, and will need redone, too.

City Hall’s entrance on Old Main Street will be closed Friday while a portion of the sidewalk in front of the doors is replaced. Those needing to enter City Hall will be directed to the doors on Barcarrota Avenue.

These appear to just be the latest in a line of issues faced with the sidewalk.

Before the brown-colored concrete was poured, a different concrete with what was called a brown aggregate had been installed. But that product was also turning out to be inconsistent. It was decided it would be torn up and replaced with the brown-colored concrete.

But the reviews continue to be mixed.

Brown said people have told him they don’t like the brown colored concrete while other city council members said they hadn’t heard any complaints.

Callahan noted that it is a manual process, and there will be splotches of lighter and darker areas in the color.

“It seems like we’re going in circles with a lot of stuff,” Callahan said. “It’s equally frustrating for us. ... I think it’s a perfectly great move to figure out where we’re going.”

Some of the frustration is that the City Centre parking garage has been completed for months, but the city is still not able to use it to its full capacity until the sidewalks are completed for safety reasons. Guests at the new Spring Hill Suites hotel are able to park on the ground level of the garage.

“I think the company is as frustrated as we are,” Mayor Wayne Poston said.

The general contractors on the project are Jon F. Swift Construction and the designers are from Kimley-Horn.

The city of Bradenton is planning to work with Kimley-Horn on the Riverwalk expansion project, and Callahan shared his concern with city council Wednesday they should be sure, on that project, to get a design that’s “buildable” in order to avoid similar issues.

“When (things) don’t turn out like the rendering, it can be disappointing,” Callahan said. “(Kimley-Horn) are by far the best people locally at creativity, but can you produce what you’ve creatively seen in your head?”

Callahan told council members he had a meeting scheduled with the companies Wednesday afternoon and said he would relay the council’s decision during that meeting.

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Sara Nealeigh covers what’s happening in the cities of Bradenton and Palmetto, Florida for the Bradenton Herald. She previously covered breaking news for the Herald after moving to Florida from Ohio in 2016.