Storage facility set to replace a Bradenton trailer park. Residents are short on time

The clock is ticking for residents of W.T. Mobile Home Park in Bradenton, which sold for $1.95 million last month.

Horne Development LLC bought the property to build a three-story, climate-controlled storage facility, according to a recent announcement by SVN Commercial Advisory Group, a real estate company based in Sarasota.

Its senior advisor, Mike Migone, was the listing agent for two years, but W.T. Mobile Home Park was on the market long before he took over the contract. He started conversing with the buyer in November 2018, and they finalized a deal on Aug. 28.

“The property has been on the market for a number of years,” Migone said. “The residents knew that. At the end of the day, they probably knew it was closing or sold because we did inspections and things like that.”

The park required only a month’s rent — about $600 to $700 — to move in, making it attractive for low-income men and women. Most of the residents live with a disability, and many are struggling to find affordable housing by Sept. 30.

“I’m a human being and I care about people,” Migone said. “I understand the challenges that came with this property.”

He said the trailers and the park owners were aging, and that a sale was inevitable. The park’s original owner, 87-year-old Alfred Wiesbauer, declined to comment on Friday.

“Obviously it’s a sad thing they’re being displaced,” Migone said of the residents. “It’s not something anybody wants to do, but some of those trailers were really rough — not very safe.”

The 2-acre property, located across from the Shake Pit restaurant, is now surrounded by fences and “no trespassing” signs.

“This area is a designated construction site, and anyone who trespasses on this property commits a felony,” the signs read.

For approximately two dozen people, the park is still home. Mary Becker said she would miss Manatee County, her home for the past 35 years, and the place where all five of her sons were born.

“I remember when downtown was red brick road and there was a tree in the middle of the road,” she said. “My grandparents graduated from Manatee High when it was Bradenton High.”

Becker will soon mover closer to family in Texas, where she found a two-bedroom home for $815 a month. While the rent is about $200 higher than her current dues, the community has a swimming pool, laundry facilities and in-home dishwashers.

“My husband is very frugal, plus we have family that will help if we need money,” Becker said. “We’re lucky that way.”

But most aren’t so lucky, and Becker said the residents should have 60 to 90 days to vacate their longtime home, not the singular month they received.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “They need more affordable housing here.”

Patricia McKee pays $600 a month to live at W.T. Mobile Home Park, but even if she found comparable rent in Manatee County, she could be deterred by security deposits, application fees and other moving expenses.

McKee hopes to find a pet-friendly home for her dog, Hooch, a beagle-hound mix.

“I’m not looking for the Taj Mahal,” she said. “I’m not looking for a mansion, because we cannot do that on our SSI income. I’m just looking to be comfortable, not to have to worry about being homeless and in my car.”

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Giuseppe Sabella, education reporter for the Bradenton Herald, holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He spent time at the Independent Florida Alligator, the Gainesville Sun and the Florida Times-Union. His coverage of education in Manatee County earned him a first place prize in the Florida Society of News Editors’ 2019 Journalism Contest. Giuseppe also spent one year in Charleston, W.Va., earning a first-place award for investigative reporting.