Harllee Family Helped Start Tomato Farming in Manatee

The Harllee family, who started farming in Manatee County shortly after the Civil War, and helped pioneer the Florida tomato industry, have sold the Harllee Packing House in Palmetto.

The 18-acre property at 2308 U.S. 301 N., sold for $6,750,000, according to the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s website. The buyer is Yue Zhou Development LLC, whose principal address is listed as the packing house property.

William M. Blalock of Wyman, Green & Blalock Real Estate, served as the seller’s broker. The seller was listed as Harllee Packing Inc. The registered agent was listed as John P. Harllee IV.

The packing house, located directly across the street from Feld Entertainment, has 121,180-square feet under roof, including cold storage facilities. The Bradenton Herald was unable to reach the new owner to ask her about her plans for the property.

The Harllee family, like many other farming families in Manatee County, have sold significant acreage to developers.

Heritage Harbour, Manatee County’ second largest master planned community, is being developed on 2,496-acres that was formerly the Harllee Ranch.

In 2015, Diane Ingram, Manatee County Agricultural Museum supervisor, wrote a History Matters column for the Bradenton Herald headlined “Peter S. Harllee: Builder of barns and Manatee’s tomato industry.”

Born in 1845 in South Carolina, Harllee served in the Civil War, briefly moved to Texas after the war, and finally settled in Manatee County in 1872, where his older brother, John Wardell Harllee was a mercantile store proprietor, selling horses, mules, and supplies to farmers on both sides of the Manatee River, Ingram reported.

“Peter began farming and around 1880 bought a plot of land north of downtown Palmetto on Highway 41 in Palm View. The property became known in the area as the Harllee “100,” Ingram said in her column.

“Peter built a two-story pole barn on the property. The exterior had stalls between each pole where mules were kept and the inside was used to store seed and fertilizer in the second story and feed and livestock supplies in the first story,” she wrote.

Harllee was one of the first commercial tomato farmers in Florida. The Harllee Barn, now on display at the Manatee County Fairgrounds, is a reminder of those pioneering days.

Over the years, several members of the Harllee family became elected officials in Manatee County.

A descendant, Peter S. Harllee Sr., joined his father, John Pope Harllee and his brother, J. P. Harllee in the family business in 1932, when he was 19.

“The Harllees grew tomatoes all over the county, including where the county jail is now located at Port Manatee, according to a Bradenton Herald story in 2003, when Mr. Harllee died at 89.

For his farming and civic contributions, Mr. Harllee was inducted into both the Manatee County Agriculture Hall of Fame and the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame. He was named Manatee County Man of the Year in 1990 and served as first chairman of the board of the Manatee County Agriculture Museum.

“He is the last of the generation that built the industry and engendered the respect of the community for this industry,” Jay Taylor of Taylor-Fulton said in 2003 of the passing of Mr. Harllee.

Look at What’s Coming to SR 64

Costco may be the biggest name currently in the works for State Road 64 east of I-75 in Manatee County, but there’s plenty more in the works. Anyone who’s driven down that stretch of Manatee County recently is probably familiar with the construction crews and flurry of “for rent” signs. There are many new developments coming, several of which I will detail for you below.

Directly east of the River Club Car Wash, which is across the street from Carlos E. Haile Middle School along State Road 64, there is a new retail center being built. According to a notice of commencement filed with Manatee County in February, it will be two buildings, tow outparcels and related site work. The first building will be 25,700 square feet and the second will be 12,000
square feet. Both will be multi-tenant buildings. Each outparcel will contain a pad site for an approximately 3,752 square foot commercial building, documents show. The property addresses are listed as 9602, 9616 and 9812 State Road 64 East in Bradenton.

There are also plans to build more retail between River Heritage Boulevard and Heritage Green Way along State Road 64, west of the new plaza currently anchored by Crunch Fitness. The yet to be developed parcel is registered to Bradenton Parcel 25 LLC, an affiliate of New Jersey based Edgewood Properties. Plans posted on Edgewood’s website show a 16.16 acre parcel with several different buildings, including a 20,000 square foot retail building, a 9,400 square foot high turnover restaurant, a 5,900 square foot fast food restaurant, a 4,968 square foot gas/convenience store, a gas pump canopy, a car wash, another 10,000 square foot retail/restaurant facility and a 22,000 square foot Aldi food store.

Currently, there’s nothing in Manatee County public records that shows Aldi moving in. Matt Thon, the grocer’s Haines City division vice president, issued the following statement: “At this time, we do not have any information to share about a potential ALDI store opening in Bradenton. ALDI is exploring multiple opportunities from coast to coast, including the greater Tampa area,” Thon said. “We look forward to sharing news a s plans develop.”

Nicholas Azzara, information outreach manager for Manatee County, said that there was nothing on file with the county’s Building & Development Services Department for that parcel as of Monday.

One think is for sure, though – you won’t find a Sam’s Club, BJ’s or any other kind of wholesale store on that parcel. Edgewood in April signed an agreement with Costco and one of its own affiliates, TH Harbour LLLP, the owner of the Costco property, agreeing to not operate a “wholesale or retail general merchandise facility that has a merchandising concept based upon a limited number of stock keeping units in a large number of product categories.” That includes, but in not limited to, Sam’s, BJ’s, Price Smart, Jetro or Smart & Final. Traditional, discount or junior department stores, like Kohl’s, Target or Kmart, are fine, according to the agreement, as are specialty retail stores that sell goods in few specific product categories, like pet food, sporting goods or office supply stores.

Plans for the Marketplace at Heritage Harbour, the Costco anchored retail plaza directly east of I75, are also posted on Edgewood’s website. The property includes a total of 472,819 square feet of retail space, 112 hotel rooms and 350 residential units. The retail space includes a 37,000 square foot fitness center, plans show. Representative from Edgewood did not respond to requests for comment.

Further down the road, future tenants in the Crunch Fitness anchored plaza located in the northeast corner of State Road 64 and Heritage Green Way are in for permitting. Keystone Animal Hospitals’ interior build-out permit application was filed April 25th. Flora Nails Spa’s was filed April 12th and 3 Car Garage Brewing applied March 29th.

Now that Costco is in for permitting, it probably won’t be long before we start to see other retailers pulling their permits for the Landings at Heritage Harbour. Other developments, like Warner Crossing behind the Wawa at State Road 64 and Upper Manatee River Road, are also in the works. And there’s even more to come.

Costco will certainly be a big draw for the area. Manatee County has been eagerly awaiting the wholesaler’s arrival. Now we’ll just have to see if the other retail in the area will be able to keep up.

Laura Finaldi
Herald-Tribune Retail and Tourism Reporter
April 30, 2019

Chris Wille: Bullish on Bradenton

Some years ago, Bradenton business and municipal leaders clamored for downtown housing as pivotal to breathing life into an underwhelming city center — mostly abandoned after the workday ended — and thus creating a robust atmosphere for development. Neighboring residents would, the theory goes, put downtown on the map as a happening place for people looking for an urban-style way of life within walking distance to restaurants, entertainment and jobs.

Development came at a slug’s pace. The Great Recession stalled efforts.

Now, revitalization is booming, led by major construction projects set for completion in mere weeks. Those include a high-rise hotel, a major museum expansion, a mixed-use parking garage with retail spaces and a public plaza nestled between City Hall and the garage. That progress coincides with several large residential projects that will bring hundreds of luxury apartments to prime real estate in the city’s core.

Residents already occupy the still growing complex in Old Manatee called the Preserve at Riverwalk, the name a nod to the planned eastward extension of the popular linear park Riverwalk. And that’s just in phase one of the sprawling complex, approximately bordered by 10th Street East and 12th Street East, the Manatee River and Manatee Avenue.

More luxury apartments, branded as the Aria at Bradenton, are rising along Manatee Avenue at First Street and Manatee Avenue. Kurt Kehoe, Orlando-based NRP Group LLC’s vice president of development in Florida, said the city was “very encouraging” about the project.

“The city has bent over backwards on development,” he said.

The complex will contain five four-story buildings and a clubhouse. He expects an October opening of the first building with pre-leasing in May.

“This is a great location connecting to downtown,” he said of the 9.2-acre property. The growth in the nearby workforce and the changing demographics as well as the site triggered the company’s venture.

Meanwhile, construction continues on an apartment complex called the Addison. Most of the units are dedicated to affordable rents as required by eligibility for federal tax credits to spur financing.

The four-story Riversong Apartments, on the Manatee River behind the performing arts center, opened in 2015 — beginning the outburst of large residential projects.

A pending streetscape project on Old Main Street that will link the riverfront with Village of the Arts will also boost downtown’s appeal and walkability. For years now, Old Main has continued to evolve as a dining and entertainment hub and people magnet with the addition of more restaurants and nightclubs as well as street concerts, a farmers market and other events.

In February, the City Council unanimously approved the streetscape project with a budget of more than $4 million. The two-year project aims to enhance the appearance and appeal of Main Street.

A bit of history puts all this in perspective and shows how far Bradenton has come in a relatively short time.

Well before today’s burst of growth, big ideas surfaced in a blueprint document called Downtown by Design. Among a host of objectives, the master plan sketched out Riverwalk.

But that citizen-driven visioning effort, published by the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority in 2007, sat on shelves as the Great Recession froze public and private investment.

Based on resident input, a mission statement for Downtown by Design reads: “Enhance the Riverfront Downtown area as a beautiful, livable, walkable, higher density, mixed-use place and an asset to the entire community and region.”

Carl Callahan, an executive in Bradenton city government since 1992 and currently the city administrator and economic development director, told me that Downtown by Design “really emphasized downtown housing.”

“We’re certainly happy to see” the various apartment projects under construction, he said.

Just one year after that road map to the future came out, the city launched another public-engagement operation — this one focusing on cultural development and placemaking as a driver of downtown revitalization. Some 1,500 people from business, arts, education, tourism and government came together to formulate another strategic effort, this one not so much about bricks and mortar. The effort led to the birth of Realize Bradenton, now a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the city’s social, cultural and physical assets. The development of public art became one of the focal points.

The organization also played a key role in the citizen-driven process that led to the design of Riverwalk, and construction began in 2011. The city’s $6.2 million investment opened to great fanfare in October 2012.

The linear park stretches from downtown’s Twin Dolphin Marina past Manatee Memorial Hospital. It features an amphitheater, a playground and splash pad, a skate park, a fishing pier, artwork and numerous other amenities — with pedestrian links to condos and apartments.

“We want to try to make this as walkable as we can,” Callahan said.

Last week, the City Council unanimously moved forward on an $8 million eastward expansion of Riverwalk by directing construction plans be drawn up.

Years before Riverwalk shovels hit the dirt, a dilapidated but beloved and historic hotel illustrated the steep climb to revitalization. Sitting vacant since 2005, the landmark went through a bank foreclosure in 2009 after it was boarded up by the city. Sitting at the southern terminus of the Green Bridge, the structure could not have been a worse first impression for visitors as the city’s northern gateway.

The hotel won widespread citizen support for preservation, and the city obliged, rejecting offers from several hoteliers who intended to demolish the old to make way for the new.

The city persevered for several years in a search of a buyer who would restore and renovate the historic 1923 hotel, known as the Manatee River Hotel, which closed in 1966 and became a senior citizens residence.

A private partnership came to town and took the rehabilitation risk, and in 2013 the $21 million Hampton Inn and Suites opened. The project won an award from the Florida Trust For Historic Preservation. And downtown finally had a signature hotel again.

Soon, the eight-story, 131-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott, a $22 million investment, will open across from City Hall. Downtown’s entertainment options will then sport a rooftop bar.

The multipurpose and multicolored $14 million City Centre parking garage and retail complex was designed to be an iconic presence with embellishments to disguise its principal purpose.

The debut of the $15 million expansion of the South Florida Museum is expected in June. The architecture of the North Education Center and Mosaic Backyard Universe will serve as public art with tall, glass walls showcasing the interactive backyard filled with planets that will be illuminated in the evening.

The $4.5 million expansion and renovation of the Twin Dolphin Marina will allow larger yachts to visit Bradenton.

ArtCenter Manatee, across Ninth Street West from the museum, intends to replace its 1955 building with a modern facility on the same property but directly to the east. The neighboring Manatee Performing Arts Center, which opened in 2013 to acclaim, took years to build since the board of directors pursued pay-as-you-go construction.

Manatee Memorial Hospital completed construction on its state-of-the-art, $33 million Emergency Care Center in December.

But back to the housing issue. As articulated by Callahan and others, people make the difference in the creation of a vibrant community.

All those new residents won’t be disappointed with the location. Realize Bradenton puts on dozens and dozens of events downtown, including the Bradenton Blues Festival on Riverwalk, all to fulfill its mission: “Enliven public spaces to create memorable experiences and a savvy buzz …”

Mission accomplished, as new residents will discover.