El­len­ton re­tail pro­ject ap­proved

The Bradenton Herald - - Business - BY RYAN CALLIHAN rcal­li­[email protected]­ton.com

Not ev­ery­one agrees that the cor­ner of Fac­tory Shops Boule­vard and 60th Av­enue East is the right spot for a po­ten­tial ho­tel, movie the­ater and com­mer­cial re­tail space, but Manatee com­mis­sion­ers voted to ap­prove it.

The main point of con­tention at Thurs­day’s land use meet­ing? Traf­fic.

Darenda Marvin, the plan­ner on the pro­ject com­prised of up to 330 ho­tel rooms, 120,000 of re­tail space and a 50,000square foot movie the­ater, took the op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress those con­cerns head on.

“What’s the point of shy­ing away from traf­fic,” she said. “I wanted to go ahead and talk about it up front.”

Marvin is con­fi­dent that the board’s de­ci­sion to spend a to­tal of $10.5 mil­lion on three dif­fer­ent traf­fic in­fra­struc­ture projects in the county’s cap­i­tal im­prove­ment plan will sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce traf­fic is­sues in what Com­mis­sioner Betsy Benac called, “an in­ter­est­ing area that’s go­ing to see a lot of change.”

While res­i­dents and com­mis­sion­ers were leery about how the de­vel­op­ment might add to an al­ready con­gested area, Marvin sug­gested that the walk­a­bil­ity of the area would en­cour­age ho­tel vis­i­tors to keep their cars off of the road.

“I know from when I travel with my boys for sports, we look for ho­tels that are sur­rounded by things to do and this is one of those ar­eas,” she said, adding that the de­vel­oper wouldn’t be in­ter­ested in con­struct­ing an ease­ment that con­nects the space to the Pre­mium Out­lets park­ing lot.

That says noth­ing of the ad­di­tion of com­muters that will be drawn to the movie the­ater, said El­len­ton res­i­dent Andy Branco.

“I have no ob­jec­tions to a movie the­ater. The prob­lem is that the the­ater is in the wrong place,” Branco told com­mis­sion­ers. “You are cre­at­ing a traf­fic haz­ard.”

Com­mis­sioner Priscilla Trace, who rep­re­sents the dis­trict where the de­vel­op­ment is planned, mir­rored his con­cerns, us­ing the hol­i­day sea­son as an ex­am­ple of how backed up traf­fic gets.

“This time of year U.S. 301 is backed up into 60th. I ap­pre­ci­ate you un­der­stand­ing the prob­lem,” Trace said, ac­knowl­edg­ing Marvin’s con­sid­er­a­tion of congestion in the area. “It’s not your prob­lem to fix, it’s more of a staff prob­lem, but that’s why I’ve had an is­sue with this de­vel­op­ment since Day 1.”

Trace was alone in cast­ing her dis­sent in the board’s vote to ap­prove the plan. Com­mis­sion­ers Vanessa Baugh and Carol Whit­more said it’s the county’s job to fix traf­fic and ap­prove de­vel­op­ment. The Plan­ning Com­mis­sion voted to rec­om­mend the pro­ject plan Nov. 8.

“There’s not much we can do about traf­fic, which is very frus­trat­ing for the board, but I do know that you will build a great ho­tel,” Baugh told de­vel­oper Ji­tan Pa­tel, who owns the Hol­i­day Inn at Sara­so­taBraden­ton In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Whit­more was more in­ter­ested in sup­ply­ing the need for a movie the­ater in the north­ern part of the county.

“There’s a lot of young peo­ple in north county that want a movie the­ater,” Whit­more said. “This is a re­quest from the cit­i­zens of north county and it’s our job to pro­vide the in­fra­struc­ture.”

Marvin said the square footage stated in the gen­eral de­vel­op­ment plan is in ref­er­ence to max­i­mum lim­its and that it’s likely the land won’t be able to fit each of those de­vel­op­ments.

Ac­cord­ing to Pa­tel, the pro­ject is still in the de­sign phase, with con­struc­tion slated to be­gin in late 2019 or later. The pro­ject will be built in phases and com­pleted in three to five years.

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