Affordable housing and storage proposed as uses for Manatee Inns site redevelopment

Land that has long been vacant is once again on the path for redevelopment, but will the properties become affordable housing, a self-storage facility or a combination of both?

Members of the Community Redevelopment Agency — which consists of Bradenton city council members — saw three presentations Wednesday for proposals to redevelop the site of the former Manatee Inns and another property across the street at 1405 14th St. W. and 1404 14th St. W. in Bradenton.

Two of the three presentations called for the development of apartment complexes that would offer “affordable” rents.

The third was a familiar suitor for the property, Safeguard Storage, which returned to show the board a plan that would have them buy the land and build self-storage units in a three-story building on the about 1.5-acre property. They previously presented a similar plan but came back with some revisions.

Because of the city’s comprehensive code and special use requirements, should Safeguard Storage be selected they would also have to provide half their ground floor space for another use. Developers, in a move that intrigued board members, offered to create a substation for the Bradenton Police Department in that space, as they have with other projects they’ve completed in the past.

Police Chief Melanie Bevan said a place for her officers to stop and use the restroom or a place to use as a community meeting space would be useful.

Another project the board eyed with interest was a proposal from Pearl Homes, which proposed to purchase the land and build up to 200 units of affordable housing with smart home and solar powered technology. The goal of the development would be to reduce the carbon footprint while hitting the price point of affordable rentals.

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“Does Bradenton need another single-family block home builder? You have enough. We want to be a disrupter,” said Marshall Gobuty, president of Pearl Homes.

Developers said they would be able to work with both available properties or just one. If they would be awarded just one piece of land, the number of units would be adjusted.

Pearl Homes has other projects in the area such a MiraBell, OurLives in Ellenton and Hunters Point in Cortez. It will soon begin with its Sycamore 14 project just a stone’s throw away at 1328 15th St. W.

A proposal from Housing Trust Group, the developers of the Addison affordable housing apartment complex in East Bradenton, proposed using both pieces of land to build affordable housing. One site would have 60 units in two buildings — a two-story building with commercial space on the ground floor and apartments on the second, and a three-story building that would be apartments. They also included park space and a clubhouse.

HTG then proposed using the smaller piece of land for another building with about 40 apartments and a plaza.

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Board members seemed to balk at the idea, which relied mostly on state and federal funding and some assistance from the city rather than cash offers like the other two proposals.

“This is a CRA project, not a real estate transaction, it’s about what’s best for turning around the 14th Street CRA,” Patrick Roff, CRA board chairman, said.

The Manatee Inns property was purchased by the city for $2 million but after tearing down the building and the Great Recession, the 3.5 acres is now appraised at just $1.1 million.

Beneficial Communities tried to redevelop the Manatee Inns land years ago, but despite multiple attempts was not able to secure the needed financing.

The CRA heard three redevelopment proposals in April, one of which was from Safeguard. By May, two proposals were a little more solid, but city officials said each one still needed some tweaks. A request for proposals was sent out again, leading to Wednesday’s presentations.

After hearing all three, Roff suggested the board take time to consider whether they should split the properties between two developers or allowing Pearl Homes to have both pieces of land.

“I don’t believe we need to make the decision today,” Roff said.

With a 3-2 vote, the discussion was tabled until a later meeting. The CRA board has another meeting scheduled Sept. 25.

Council member Harold Byrd Jr. encouraged the rest of the board members to postpone the vote until next week in part to allow for more transparency in the process.

However, board member Gene Gallo said he believed they are making the process more complicated by waiting.

Some resistance from the Village of the Arts

The project, which lies in the Village of the Arts, has met opposition before. The previous proposals saw concerns from VOA residents that they would not mesh well with the village’s aesthetic.

This time around it wasn’t much different.

A handful of Village of the Arts residents addressed the CRA board Wednesday with their preferences between the projects.

Overall, concerns over traffic through the village and the number of apartments were some of the biggest concerns from residents. Public opinion between the two housing options was near evenly split.

Those that preferred HTG’s proposal said its look would dovetail into the village better than the other projects and praised it’s space for artists and others to live and work in the area.

But those who preferred the Pearl Homes proposal noted the sustainability of the proposed apartments and straightforward rent prices. However, some said they wanted to see more on the design front from Pearl Homes.

“This board and this council has got more responsibility than just to the Village of the Arts. We have a responsibility to the entire city and when we make business deals with incentives, that hurts the entire city. That’s revenue we’re losing,” Gallo said.