The future is now for Bradenton

The residential development is needed in order to make downtown more vibrant. The restaurants, shops and entertainment won't come until there is a critical mass of people to support it.

The city of Bradenton, the Downtown Development Authority and developers are working toward a downtown that supports and encourages a live, work and play atmosphere.

Projects approved by Bradenton City Council that could build upon downtown's residential development include: • The continuation of Promenade at Riverwalk, which will bring more residential development to the area along Third Avenue West bordering the Manatee River.

An 8-story condominium building was the first phase, and future development includes a 15-story residential development with 87 units, a 5-story luxury senior apartment building with 148 units and a 4-story, 45-unit residential building with ground-level retail use. • Downtown City Central could bring 100 luxury condominiums and 10,000 square feet of retail space to the corner of 15th Street West and Manatee Avenue West. • The Tarpon Pointe project includes plans for two condo towers with a total of 154 units at 234 Sixth St. N.E. Mike Kennedy, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, said these projects will be a start to attracting more downtown residents. "The residential development is needed in order to make downtown more vibrant," Kennedy said. "The restaurants, shops and entertainment won't come until there is a critical mass of people to support it." Once the sagging economy picks up, Kennedy said he would like to see a retail development that is a mix of national franchise businesses and those locally owned and operated. City officials are also optimistic that a mix of residential and professional office development can occur in Ballard Park near Wares Creek. In addition, the dredging of the creek later this fall could make the area more attractive for future development and recreation. In the meantime, downtown Bradenton is in store for development that supports tourism. The Pink Palace at 309 10th St. W. will become a luxury, boutique hotel that will also include a restaurant, spa, retail and waterfront amenities. A public-private partnership between the city and the hotel franchise is intended to redevelop the old city fishing pier on the Manatee River and east of the railroad tracks. The pier will be used to support waterfront amenities such as lunch and dinner cruises, eco tours and jet ski and boat rentals. The Promenade at Riverwalk also plans to construct a hotel that will be 5 stories with 115 rooms. With more residential and tourism development, Kennedy said arts and culture will also become a priority for downtown entertainment. The new Manatee Players Theatre along Third Avenue West is part of that effort. The building is expected to be a state-of-the-art facility and will have more than 100 additional seats than its current theater. Janene Witham, development director for the Manatee Players, said the $15 million capital campaign project has raised $8.65 million for the building. This is wonderful for the community, Witham said. One of the wonderful things about art, culture and entertainment is it builds a camaraderie among people that you don't see day to day. Also in the works for downtown is an elementary school at 515 13th Ave. W. that will allow 580 students and will be within walking distance for many who live downtown. This is a true neighborhood school, said Ruth Seewer, development review manager for the city's planning commission.