Planning begins for community center near Pride Park

MANATEE -- Plans are under way for construction of a community center adjacent to Pride Park, fulfilling one of the earliest priorities set by a group charged with revitalizing the area.

The South County Community Redevelopment Board has purchased property near the park and plans to have a center built and operating by the middle of 2012. The center also will be close to Blanche H. Daughtrey Elementary School.

The 8-year-old CRA identified a community center as crucial to the improvement of an area historically known for gangs and crime. A community center would give young people positive activities and role models, the group said.

“It’s in the original work plan for the CRA,” Neighborhood Services Manager Cheri Coryea said. “But the South County CRA is a relatively young CRA, and it takes some time to earn funds.”

The CRA purchased more than four acres of Taylor Nursery property at 907 63rd Ave. E. for $835,000 in May. Under terms of the purchase, Taylor Nursery may lease the land until May 2011.

The entire project, including purchase of the land, is expected to cost between $3 million and $3.5 million and will be funded by the CRA.

The county hopes to submit a request for proposals to find an operator for the community center during the first quarter of 2011. The chosen operator would be involved in the design of the building, which is scheduled to be completed during 2012, Coryea said.

“We’re looking for a unique partnership with an entity, either public or private, that will allow it to be self-sufficient,” Coryea said. “We’ll take a little extra time to see who might respond.”