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Bradenton's Village of the Arts expansion could be finalized June 24

BRADENTON -- Bradenton's unique living/working arts overlay district will likely get bigger after the city council took a key step Wednesday in expanding the borders of the Village of the Arts.

The council scheduled a public hearing June 24 to finalize what has been a long journey for the city and village residents who have worked together to help the village thrive. The council, which had its first reading Wednesday, will also take a final vote June 24 on the proposal.

The current western village boundary ends at 13th Street West and the expansion will take the boundary one block west of 14th Street West. The northern boundary will expand to Ninth Avenue West. The southern boundary will remain on parts of 17th Avenue West and the eastern boundary also will remain intact with the majority of its jagged boundary ending at 10th Street West.

The goal of the expansion is to increase visibility of the village to 14th Street West corridor traffic. According to Brady Woods, planning department review manager, the expansion will "give the village more identification. Right now the Village of the Arts is Bradenton's hidden gem. While that sounds

good, it's not good for the business owners who don't want to be hidden."

The expansion proposal has met with some resistance. City staff say some businesses within the proposed expansion area expressed concern about how the new zoning changes will impact them.

"It won't," said Woods. "It's not going to have any affect on their businesses. If anything, it will add benefits by being part of the village because they can now use village themes."

Woods said that will be a personal choice for those businesses. They can either take advantage of the more lenient overlay district codes to be creative with their businesses or do nothing at all. Current village business owners hope the 14th Street West businesses will participate.

"It will take all of us being involved," said Jean G. Farmer, owner of Fun Art Girl at 1001 12th Ave. W. Farmer's background is revitalization, "So I get the vision of what will be the district. This expansion can only make the village better as far as increasing our visibility with signage on 14th Street, but hopefully businesses on 14th will get involved with the village and help signify that this side of town is different."

Paul Welch, co-owner of Martin's Barbershop at 1110 14th St. W., said he will likely contribute to the village vision.

"It's a good, positive thing," he said. "The village brings in a lot of people and businesses that are of a different element. I still believe in small businesses and the village is a representation of America's roots."

The city, village residents and 14th Street West business owners all hope the move will help promote redevelopment along one of the city's most troubled corridors. Ed Zbiegien, owner of Bradenton Car Care at 1505 14th St. W., invested about $2 million three years ago to open his business.

"I think any time the city does something to attract and encourage development, it's a positive thing," he said.

Text amendments included

As part of the ordinance to expand the overlay district, Woods is proposing some text amendments to the existing form base codes. Ad hoc committees consisting of village residents have been meeting for months with city staff. Woods said the proposed changes come directly from the input of those meetings.

"This really comes down to them," he said. "It's what they want to see."

Some ordinance changes allow for better sign use by the village as a whole and for individual businesses. Gateway signs directing traffic into the village from the 14th Street West corridor will not be allowed to advertise any single businesses, rather benefit the district as a whole. Sign use on individual properties will become more lenient compared to other city districts where land use regulations are more prohibitive. Artists will be allowed to create their own "Open" signs, but must have the village logo on it somewhere. Sizes, locations and heights of the signs were also amended to make it easier for traffic to locate individual businesses.

The city will also create an outdoor art permit to allow artists to display public art on vacant lots for a restricted amount of time. Woods said the city has no desire to be the "art police," but still has to take into consideration public safety for what pieces are displayed and ensure the art doesn't fall into disrepair by establishing a 30-day permit with approved time extensions.

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

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