Lighting up the Village of the Arts, Riverwalk is Bradenton's next goal

BRADENTON -- Ensuring the public feels safe while visiting the Village of the Arts is key to its success and properly lighting the streets for pedestrians is a tool in that strategy.

Street lighting has been a topic of conversation between city officials and village residents for some time and if all goes according to plan, the first 20 new streetlights could be installed by spring of 2015.

Public Works Director Claude Tankersley said his department will pursue $80,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding, distributed and approved by the city council, toward the goal of installing 50-100 street lights to properly illuminate the village.

"There's lighting throughout the village, but some areas are more lit than others," said Tankersley. "So we want to figure out how and where to get the best bang for our buck. Some areas have low lighting, but might not see a lot of pedestrian traffic because there are not a lot of galleries."

Painting the existing poles also is a project planned for the village as part of an overall beautification effort. The Bradenton Downtown Development Authority budget

ed $20,000 for the project, but Tankersley said it is on hold to determine the best approach.

The fact that the city is moving forward is good news to village business owners like Dawn Collins, co-owner of Village Mystic on 12th Avenue West. She said lighting has been an issue since she opened the business three years ago, "especially for businesses on the side streets." "Being more visible just gives people a better sense of being safe, but that's true no matter where you are."

Collins said great strides have already been made in turning around the neighborhood's former reputation.

"I've lived and done business in Bradenton for 42 years and even I wouldn't come to this neighborhood many years ago because of that reputation, but I don't see any of the issues I first saw three years ago and more lighting will be a key to continue that trend," she said.

Collins, who is about to extend business days to six days a week, holds several nighttime events. As the village attracts more restaurants and businesses geared toward enticing an evening crowd, she said lighting obviously becomes even more important.

New Riverwalk lighting

By the end of the year, the city hopes to have all of the streetlights on the Riverwalk replaced due to a design flaw in the poles that has allowed water to seep in and destroy the interior wiring.

Tankersley said it's been an issue for about a year now, "but the irony is that as we discovered this manufacturing flaw, the company went out of business due to a sudden death. So we had to approach another company to see if they could match the existing poles because the Riverwalk poles were specifically designed for the Riverwalk."

Tankersley said the lights were under warranty, but the city had to go through the insurance company to get the warranty honored. The city was able to place temporary circuitry inside the existing poles to maintain lighting and are enhancing those efforts with Daylight Saving Time beginning this weekend.

"If everything goes according to plan, we should be close to getting the new lights delivered and then have them installed. Hopefully they will be up by the end of the year,' he said.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.