National Opinions

Bill Evers: Artisan Avenue, 14th St. project should be shot down

For one and a half years I have kept silent as the City of Bradenton administration chased one pie-in-the-sky scheme after another — and now it’s come up with two cockamamie pipe dreams to waste millions of tax dollars.

In a Herald letter to the editor, I did alert taxpayers to the Downtown Development Authority’s proposal to sell, or lease for 60 years, the property it bought for $2.1 million on 14th Street West to a non-Florida developer for $576,000. The Herald has now allowed me to alert Bradenton taxpayers about the financial folly they’re calling Artisan Avenue.

Artisan Avenue would be a walkway from nowhere to nowhere from the river to the Village of the Arts via a street that doesn’t even exist for two-thirds of the route along 11th Street West through downtown but it dead-ends before it gets there.

This cultural concrete path goes right through the Bradenton Police Department and possibly through the Municipal Auditorium. The Police Department would have to be rebuilt, heaven knows where, and for heaven knows how many millions of tax dollars. It doesn’t matter if the Municipal Auditorium was razed, too, because it would be dead anyway, as its parking would be turned into a Grand Piazza with buildings. City Hall also would have no parking.

Artisan Avenue meanders through alleys, a bar parking space, alongside a parking garage, abuts curb-side offices, past an automotive business, in front of another parking garage, past a church and the Fire Department. A real artsy Artisan Avenue!

The main proponent, who stands to gain financially, says private developers will pay, not taxpayers. But who is going to pay the millions for pavers, concrete, signage, a parking garage, replacement of the Police Department, possible loss of the auditorium? Taxpayers, of course!

By what miracle are these private developers going to appear to build wonderful buildings on the City Centre lot, etc.? None has shown up for decades, so why now would they be clamoring to invest and build along 11th Street West downtown? And, make no mistake, these are tax dollars they are talking about wasting. Some of the expenses would run through the DDA, but those are most certainly your tax dollars, too. Those dollars just don’t go into the city’s general fund, but are earmarked for a smidgen of the city — the few blocks downtown.

Both Artisan Avenue and the 14th Street DDA debacle would be unthinkable and ludicrous in the best of times, because both are unneeded and unfeasible.

In these days when people are losing their homes, their jobs and their financial security, it is unbelievable that anyone is even proposing them! They are more of pie-in-the-sky “leadership” vision. Neither will ever fly, but they deserve to be shot down before any more tax money is wasted on studies, glitzy presentations, etc. They say that time is money, so quit wasting time and, thus, money.

Wouldn’t it be great if the City Fathers spent more time figuring out how to save our money instead of bumbling around wasting it?

Bill Evers, served as mayor of Bradenton for 20 years.