In tandem with his Lake Flores urban village project in southwest Bradenton, lifelong Manatee County resident and Manatee Fruit Co. president Whiting Preston continues to pursue the development of additional family farmland nearby. That project, Peninsula Bay, is designed to fulfill a vision for a waterfront community that befits the heritage of the historic fishing village of Cortez.
If anyone can accomplish that lofty goal, it’s Preston. His family roots run deep here, and as a major landowner with his family, he’s demonstrated a sensitivity to developments that address lifestyle and quality of life as well as environmental considerations. Lake Flores’ New Urbanism design is a pedestrian-oriented community with a multi-modal trail connecting residential and commercial districts in order to reduce internal traffic and promote alternative transportation avenues. The blueprint for the 1,300-acre mixed-use development won the Florida Planning and Zoning Association’s “Outstanding Planning Project” award last year.
We expect similar honors for Peninsula Bay. With Manatee County Planning Commission approval earlier this month, the proposal now heads to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners in September.
Preston’s 360-acre Peninsula Bay project, bordered by Palma Sola Bay and Cortez Road, protects all but about an acre of wetlands; adds a 67-acre lake; enhances, restores and establishes mangrove swamps; and improves tidal and upland habitat. Project documents cite a vision of creating “an ecofriendly waterfront fishing village and resort, building on the character of the Cortez community while integrating new vacation and living options.”
The design aims to maximize neighborly interaction with a compact, walkable plan, neighborhood parks and a marina gathering place. Public amenities will include parks, plazas, trails, bayfront walkways and more to encourage meaningful interactions and outdoor living.
With a project blueprint that contains 1,950 residential units, 90,000 square feet of nonresidential space and a 200-boat dry storage marina as well as a public boat ramp and marina, the unique waterfront community is also designed to complement the Lake Flores development, which won Manatee County commission approval last August but remains in the permitting process. The project features 6,500 residential units, 1 million square feet of retail space, 2 million square of commercial capacity and 500 hotel rooms. The design features two distinct zones, a residential neighborhood to the east and a mixed-use marina district to the west.
Preston anticipated community consternation over Peninsula Bay’s traffic volumes, addressing one issue by creating a roadway parallel to Cortez Road but behind buffers of wetlands and mangroves. The developments three entrances intersect with this roadway and will help take vehicles off Cortez Road.
One of the major arterials in southwest Bradenton, 53rd Avenue West, will soon be widened to four lanes from the 75th Street West roundabout to 43rd Street West. That 1.8-mile segment of the street will connect with the four lanes east of 43rd Street West, which will help ease future traffic loads.
The collection of impact fees from both Whiting projects should fuel other transportation improvement projects by those developments, and, should voters pass the infrastructure sales tax referendum in November, additional funding could be at hand.
As part of the application process, developers must submit a transportation impact analysis. That study estimated Peninsula Bay would generate 16,161 net new car trips daily, adding to the already congested Cortez Road traffic heading to Anna Maria Island, especially during season. Cortez’s population and traffic volume stands to nearly double with Peninsula Bay buildout, up to 12 years.
“Peninsula Bay will coordinate with Manatee County to support the funding for future roadway improvements, needed due to both background traffic and Peninsula Bay traffic,” according to the project’s traffic analysis. As Whiting told the Herald this month, his team is “seeking to be a part of the traffic solution.” The Manatee Fruit Co. has been working with the county for years on traffic issues in this area, signing an extensive agreement in 2011 that covers transportation concurreny, rights-of-way, cost sharing, easements and much more.
Preston is not your average developer, but a lifelong county resident whose goal is to improve the community through imaginative, sensitive and smart development. That both Lake Flores and Peninsula Bay mesh with the county’s official goal of promoting infill development boosts the already strong appeal of both projects. His transparency and public outreach serve the community well, too.
Growth is coming to Manatee County as population forecasts show, and traffic will remain a hot-button issue. Infill development is a high priority of the county. The Peninsula Bay property is destined to be developed. Preston’s proposal reflect smart and sensitive development, the best the county could hope for. We anticipate commission approval come September.