BRADENTON -- The proposal to develop 3 acres of property where the once-troubled Manatee Inns motel stood on 14th Street West received a nod of approval Wednesday.
Bradenton City Council members voted unanimously to sell the property for $700,000 to Sarasota-based developer Beneficial Communities, opening the door for Beneficial to submit a tax credit application, due by October, as a limited means of viable financing.
Tax credits come with the stipulation of creating affordable housing. That term has left a negative perception looming over the project from the beginning due to the type of residents the proposed 80-unit mixed use commercial and residential complex in the 1400 block of could potentially attract.
Village of the Arts residents expressed concern this week about the project attracting "riff-raff" to the property along the 1400 block of 14th Street. Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo added a new issue of potentially attracting seniors seeking low-income housing, which is also counterproductive to the goal of returning vibrancy to downtown.
Beneficial developer Ken Bowron Jr. said his company
will work with those focused on attracting young professionals by offering early leasing applications to millennials. He said Beneficial also builds and manages senior communities, and nothing about the 14th Street project would likely appeal to seniors.
"Senior developments are constructed differently," said Bowron. "Seniors try to stay away from the younger crowds and walk-up apartments without elevators. As long as this keeps growing as an extension of the Village of the Arts with a downtown lifestyle, there will be younger people wanting to live there."
There is interest in building a 72-unit senior community facility at a different vacant site adjacent to the United Way, just four blocks to the south of the Manatee Inns project, Planning and Community Development Director Tim Polk said. That project would, if approved, cater more to the senior lifestyle than the Manatee Inns project.
Beneficial's conceptual design emerged ahead of three other applicants during the selection process earlier this summer, but all four applicants cited federal and state tax credit programs as the only viable financing option. Beneficial project manager Brian Jones explained that private financing would drive rent prices to the equivalent of existing waterfront rental prices, making it much more difficult to attract young professionals just starting their careers out of college.
Bowron said the application's success rate is about 10 percent due to the competitive nature of tax credits. Bowron should have an idea of their chances by mid-November.
If unsuccessful in winning the credits, Beneficial could tap into state-issued bonds to finance the project.
In 2006, the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority used $1.5 million of 14th Street Community Redevelopment Funds to purchase the Manatee Inns, demolish it and redevelop it. The Great Recession hit and property values as well as development plummeted.
The $700,000 sale would remove the DDA's remaining debt and return about $100,000 a year back into the 14th Street West CRA's coffers, which have been essentially depleted for years.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.