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Work begins on Bradenton's Ballard Park project

A parking area is planned for this section of John and Rebecca Neal Park in the Ballard neighborhood of Bradenton. The proposed park sits on the banks of Wares Creek and will feature a community garden, dock, kayak launch and parking area. 
 GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald
A parking area is planned for this section of John and Rebecca Neal Park in the Ballard neighborhood of Bradenton. The proposed park sits on the banks of Wares Creek and will feature a community garden, dock, kayak launch and parking area. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald gjefferies@Bradenton.com

BRADENTON -- Bradenton officials Wednesday approved an $89,920 contract with ZNS Engineering to prepare several lots in the Ballard Park neighborhood for new housing and the eventual John and Rebecca Neal Park.

The neighborhood revitalization project targeted an area of Ballard Park long known for slumlords and drug activity, according to Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff. The city approached John Neal Homes during the Great Recession to purchase and redevelop the properties, but development never moved forward. Neal sold the properties back to the city in December 2012 for $284,661, far below the $1.3 million land value at the time.

The sale, for what Roff said was "pennies on the dollar," was contingent on one property being set aside for a park named after the Neal family. The project includes construction of the John and Re

becca Neal Park, which will feature a dock for kayak and canoe launching into Ware's Creek, as well as a community garden. It is being categorized as a passive park across from Ballard Park Elementary School, which has nearby playground equipment.

The contract approval allows ZNS and the Fawley Bryant architectural firm to move forward. The first task is to survey, replat and record the seven lots that will go up for sale within a few months, as well as subdividing the larger lots creating nine lots with one devoted to the park. Park design and preparing construction documents and a bid proposal is the second task.

The properties are bound by Ninth Avenue West, Ballard Park Drive, Eighth Avenue West and 17th Street West. The eight parcels will be sold for development for new housing. As part of the sale, the city will retain the right to approve design to ensure all site plans for new homes fit into the area's historical architectural character.

The city demolished most of the former structures last year, which Roff said had an immediate impact of "the drug activity dying off."

The city will use impact fees to pay the initial costs to prepare the properties for sale, as well as park design and construction with the intention of recouping those dollars after selling the parcels intended for housing. The city requires impact fees for any development that needs a building permit.

The size of a proposed fenced community garden has yet to be determined. The city is working with the University of Florida Extension Service on the design. An existing seawall along Ware's Creek where the new dock will be constructed will be inspected as part of the approved contract to determine its stability and, if needed, determine how to protect it.

A ZNS representative could not be reached for comment. City Clerk Carl Callahan said the city will put the properties up for sale as soon as the survey and replat work is completed.

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

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