Next week, construction begins on the very first green street in Manatee County. Fifth Street West in Downtown Palmetto will be redeveloped to integrate bio swales and other botanical features into the right-of-way landscaping that will in turn cut down on pollution by filtrating storm water before it enters the Manatee River.
“The two block spans was never irrigated with storm water drains because it is on a natural hill,” explained Charlie Ugarte, the project architect. “The fact that it remained untouched by city pipes and slopes naturally made it a perfect candidate for low impact design.”
NDC Construction Co. of Bradenton was awarded the $1.35 million dollar contract; they were the lowest bidder. The Palmetto Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is funding the plan with the help of a grant from Southwest Florida Water Management (SFTMD) in the amount of $582,000. The venture is expected to be completed by late August.
Ugarte said he was inspired by the green streetscapes that are popular in Oregon as part of urban infrastructure which is incorporated into the aesthetics of the community. Native Florida plants and trees will be utilized as landscaping; their roots will serve to filter street runoff. No pipes will be installed for the streetscape, instead all the asphalt and brick that is utilized will be porous – allowing for water to pass through it.
The project is just the start of a plan to re-urbanize downtown Palmetto into a compact community. The CRA hopes to bring back the “small town flavor” that was created over a century ago when Palmetto originally became a city. The philosophy behind the current land development code reinforces urban sprawl and discourages community-enhancing infill development, but the new CRA promotes an unbroken pattern of people-friendly streets and diverse storefronts with shops on the first floor, living spaces on the second floor and parking behind the building. The CRA is offering a variety of incentives for developers who chose to construct buildings in accordance with this plan.
“The Fifth Street project is an innovative way to create new business opportunities and remove old and outdated buildings and infrastructure," said Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant. "The project beautifies downtown for residents, brings in more business and creates jobs.”
A similar undertaking is in the works for Palmetto’s Riverside Park. The CRA became the first to utilize Environmental Protection Agency Coalition Grants to help offset the development of urban shops near Palmetto’s gateway as well as the enhancement of Palmetto Boat Ramp with increased parking.
“In a the span of two week period, the City Commission has approved $2 million in CRA contracts for two major downtown investments, almost $600,000 of which is a Southwest Florida Water Management District Grant. They are also moving forward to develop the Riverside boat ramp gateway into the City and a new eastside park with the County Commission, West Coast Inland Navigational District and the Sarasota Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization as partners and potentially another $500,000 SWFWMD grant. They should be commended for their vision and foresight," said Bryant.
About Palmetto CRA:
Under Florida law (Chapter 163, Part III), local governments are able to designate areas as Community Redevelopment Areas when certain conditions exist. Since all the monies used in financing CRA activities are locally generated, CRAs are not overseen by the state, but redevelopment plans must be consistent with local government comprehensive plans.
Examples of conditions that can support the creation of a Community Redevelopment Area include, but are not limited to: the presence of substandard or inadequate structures, a shortage of affordable housing, inadequate infrastructure, insufficient roadways, and inadequate parking. To document that the required conditions exist, the local government must survey the proposed redevelopment area and prepare a Finding of Necessity. If the Finding of Necessity determines that the required conditions exist, the local government may create a Community Redevelopment Area to provide the tools needed to foster and support redevelopment of the targeted area.
There are currently 178 Community Redevelopment Areas in the State of Florida. The designation is used by Florida cities of all sizes, from Jacksonville and Tampa to Madison and Apalachicola. Many familiar locations, such as Church Street in Orlando, Ybor City in Tampa and the beachfront in Ft. Lauderdale are successful examples of Community Redevelopment Areas.
For more information visit www.palmettocra.org