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Bradenton DDA finalizes $11,000 deal for Old Main Street alley gates as Dave Gustafson says farewell

Bradenton Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Dave Gustafson attends his final DDA meeting. Gustafson will resign as of Friday as the city assumes control over DDA funding and the city's three community redevelopment agencies as of Jan. 1. MARK YOUNG/Bradenton Herald
Bradenton Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Dave Gustafson attends his final DDA meeting. Gustafson will resign as of Friday as the city assumes control over DDA funding and the city's three community redevelopment agencies as of Jan. 1. MARK YOUNG/Bradenton Herald

BRADENTON -- He swore he wouldn't get emotional. It might be one of the few times Bradenton Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Dave Gustafson failed to achieve a goal as he struggled to get through his final presentation to the DDA board.

Gustafson's five-year tenure as the head of the DDA will end on Friday after announcing his resignation last month in the wake of the city council's decision to assume control of the city's three community redevelopment agencies, including two overseen by the DDA. The board will continue its work focusing on downtown development but with the city's intention of creating a new economic development director position to oversee all three CRAs, Gustafson's position was targeted for elimination.

"This has been more than a job," said Gustafson. "This is my home."

Gustafson, who will be working for Wagner Realty in its commercial division as well as doing land development consulting, pledged he isn't going anywhere. He wants to get involved in various city committees because, "I love Bradenton and still want to help this city grow."

Board members praised Gustafson for his passion and for leading development opportunities through a difficult economic period. The board recognized they hired the right guy almost immediately when he stepped in while Riverwalk was still under critical fire while under construction.

Planning and Community Development Director Tim Polk, who is retiring at the end of the year, said there are many projects Gustafson will leave as a "legacy," including the Hampton Inn & Suites hotel.

Gustafson is no stranger to controversy and his final meeting was no exception.

The board voted 6-1 to award an $11,000 contract to Sarasota-based Rail-Tek Inc. for two welded steel decorative swing gates to be installed on either end of an alley in the 400 block of Old Main Street, between B Towne Coffee Company and the law offices of Layon Robinson.

The DDA approved the funding in June after reports of undesirable activities by bar-goers and homeless people taking place during late night hours.

Tentatively, B Towne Coffee Company owner Mike Gold will be in charge of opening and locking the gates, as determined by a recent Downtown Merchants Association meeting. B Towne opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday but is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday. It is closed on Sundays.

Board member Mike Carter said it's a good start and in the event that business owners, who he said voted unanimously for the time closures, have issues, "the DDA can always find someone else because they are our gates and our responsibility."

DDA Vice Chair Jayne Kocher has opposed the project from the beginning, saying it would create issues for people who use the popular 13th Street West parking lot and potentially create a dangerous situation for patrons not to have access to the shortcut. Hers was the only vote against awarding the contract.

The DDA estimates the gates could be installed within 60-90 days.

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

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