Expansion opportunities for Village of the Arts in Bradenton

BRADENTON — Now that the city has finalized the expansion of the Village of the Arts boundaries to include 14th Street West, questions remain for the village because of that corridor’s reputation as a trouble spot.

Village business owners point out that their neighborhood has already had to overcome public perception that it is an area that once held a troubled reputation of its own.

But Gene Tenery, owner of Village Sharpening and Metal Art Gallery, 1111 14th Ave. W., doesn’t see the expansion as a problem, rather an opportunity.

“I think there are problems there,” said Tenery. “But I do believe we inherited a bigger opportunity because there is a lot there that people don’t see. There are some great businesses, and there also are a lot of good families that are trying to raise their children in a safe environment. It’s not just about the gallery owners. It’s about everyone who calls the village home.

“There are different cultures here that might not socialize with one another, and we want to bring all of that together.”

Don Cosgrove, whose wife Sally owns Sally’s Studio, 1221 12th St. W., said the partnership between the village and the city is already resulting in a lot of change.

“We will be strategizing how the village and the 14th Street (Community Redevelopment Agency) can come together,” said Cosgrove. “We are going to invite those businesses to socialize. It’s time for the two of us to come together.”

A city staff member will

remain as a point person for the village because public involvement will remain crucial to the overall redevelopment efforts, which are ongoing with infrastructure and new business, says Bradenton Planning and Community Development Director Tim Polk.

“Once the old Manatee Inns site gets under construction, that will be the ultimate game-changer for the village on 14th Street,” Polk said. “The confidence level is growing. The more you get, the more you get. From that standpoint, you’ll see people saying, ‘I see what’s going on and I’d like to take a chance on this.'”

City officials and village residents believe development of the old Manatee Inns site will make a difference in how the public perceives the village, as well as 14th Street West. A Bradenton Downtown Development Authority selection committee recently selected Sarasota-based Beneficial Communities as the top developer in a request for qualifications process to develop the property.

The selection committee will meet with Beneficial on Wednesday to get more details on the proposal. While the city took a financial loss in purchasing the property prior to the Great Recession, city officials believe it was still a good idea to remove the eyesore of a motel with a reputation for criminal activity.

The new village boundaries incorporate two other small motels with reputations similar to the old Manatee Inns, as well as the Salvation Army serving the homeless and others in need.

The village’s borders remain unchanged to the south at 17th Avenue West and to the east at 10th Street West. The expansion is to the north at Ninth Avenue West and to the west one block west of 14th Street West.

Polk said confidence is the village is increasing, noting 11 new businesses that have recently opened.

“That’s huge,” Polk said. “The more stuff people see in terms of new business and infrastructure, all of those things will be a positive in the market correcting itself and that’s going to spur more opportunities for redevelopment.”

The city also recently voted to assume governing authority of the city’s CRAs. While much work remains before the Jan. 1 transition takes effect, the creation of a 14th Street West advisory board appears to be a goal for the council. Until now, the DDA has overseen the 14th Street West CRA, and elected officials have expressed frustration with the lack of progress in that CRA as one of many reasons to make the transition.

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

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