Bradenton's Ballard Park infill project beginning to take form

BRADENTON -- Four parcels of land near Ballard Elementary School in the historic Ware's Creek neighborhood has been eyed for redevelopment for years as part of the Ballard Park infill project.

That project took another step forward Wednesday with Bradenton city council members reviewing a presentation on a proposed park that would include a dock, kayak-launching area and community garden.

The city council agreed to move ahead with planning for the project.

Community meetings were held for months to garner input on what residents wanted to see done with the 2.5 acres. A park and housing topped the list.

The city recently cleared the final hurdle of moving forward by demolishing a structure dubbed "White House" that was said to have historical value. Research efforts, however, failed to find anything significant and the house was demolished.

Other blighted houses have been torn down over the past year, leaving a blank canvas for the city to proceed. Spearheaded by Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff, the city convinced Neal Communities Inc. to purchase the "most notorious slum

lord" properties in the city. The city then purchased the properties at cost from Neal when it became apparent that redevelopment would not occur anytime soon.

The four properties are bounded by Ninth Avenue West, Ballard Park Drive and Eighth Avenue West and 17th Street West, with two properties encompassing several hundred feet of waterfront along Ware's Creek.

The park was originally proposed to be on the site of the White House, but Roff said Wednesday that piece of property is not as suitable as the Ballard Park Drive property.

Jason Taylor, an architect for Fawley/Bryant in Bradenton, provided a conceptual, hand-drawn rendition of what the park could look like. If approved as is, the park would contain a 38-section community garden, an improved canopy, a dock on the creek and a kayak-launching point complete with stairs leading into the creek. It also would provide up to 22 parking spaces, and Roff said the school has offered its parking lot for overflow traffic on weekend.

The remaining three parcels of land will be divided into eight or nine lots for new homes. Since the city owns the properties, it will set a construction development standard to any developer that purchases the property. Part of the proceeds of the sales would fund the construction of the park.

City Clerk Carl Callahan said the properties are currently undergoing an appraisal. Roff said it would only be the second park in his ward. The other is a park on 17th Street West, which Roff said could win "the ugliest park" award if the city had a contest.

He said the new homes would help the city meet its goals of attracting millennials into the area.

Mark Young, urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041, or On Twitter @urbanmark2014.