Bradenton DDA gives tenative nod to Beneficial to continue design for 14th Street West

The Bradenton DDA Selection Committee that previously tapped Sarasota-based Beneficial Communities to help develop the old Manatee Inns site on 14th Street West heard a more detailed proposal Wednesday.

Beneficial, along with Bradenton’s Fawley Bryant architectural firm, presented a conceptual design for workforce housing featuring a staggered-roof commercial and residential building on 14th Street West and a second row of workforce housing farther to the east. In between the two rows of buildings containing about 80 units of live-work space, would be open green space for pop-up events and public art projects.

Project architect Jason “J.B.” Taylor said he worked with Village of the Arts residents long before it was the Village of the Arts.

“I know its character and I pulled in the ideologies of the village and poured all of that into this site,” Taylor said.

The design is a long way from being finalized. Developers and selection committee members intend to hold public meetings, and Taylor said the conceptual design has a great deal of flexibility in anticipation of changes.

Housing on 14th Street West tentatively would be ground floor, three-bedroom living and working spaces or could be rented commercially with two-bedroom units on the upper floors.

The design, said Taylor, “is more urban village than urban block,” in keeping with the village.

“This is our first opportunity to hear from you and we want to hear from you,” said project manager Brian Jones

of Jones Development. “Beneficial believes in the open process, including the public’s involvement, so it’s rare when what’s presented originally ends up being the final project.”

Jones said the only way to finance a project such as this one is through federal tax credits. He said attracting private investment is impossible for a project the market won’t support.

Rental prices range between $500 to $800 per month if the project is approved for individual or family income ranges between $25,000 and $37,000 a year. Anyone making more or less would not be eligible to rent the units.

Realize Bradenton Executive Director Johnette Isham asked what happens if an artist moves in and is successful and begins to make more money. Beneficial representatives said they would have to move out.

However, Isham and real estate agent Ben Bakker said the income range is pertinent to attract millennials who exit college with an average annual salary range between $25,000 and $30,000 per year. Bakker said he believes young professionals will jump at the opportunity to live and work downtown.

“We’ve had Town Hall meetings with young professionals on affordable housing issues and the turnout is through the roof,” he said. “They are clamoring for a place like this to live and I think the demand is incredibly high.”

The DDA Board is expected to hear Selection Committee recommendation later this month and, if approved, could pass them on to the Bradenton City Council by August. Beneficial representatives said that would leave enough time to prepare a tax credit application by the October deadline.

If all goes well, it could be up to a 20-month closing process and an additional year or so of design, permitting and construction.

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