“What do you wanna do tonight?”
For those of us who live in Bradenton this may be a question we frequently ask on a Saturday night, or even a Tuesday morning.
The success of any place where people live is to have something to do. This can be the basics. Shopping. Movies. A fast food drive-thru. But sometimes we just want something more. Some place nice to go, a place that’s fun, where we can get dressed up for a change, dine on something unique, where we can dance, share a laugh with friends, converse in a setting that is charming, upbeat, delightfully distracting, or romantically intimate for that rare date we always wish we could make time for. And, we wish that where we live, work, and our children go to school, can provide us with all of this.
And why not?
Across Florida older towns and cities are being refurbished and restored. Facades are being cleaned, interiors are being reimagined, streets are being decorated. Respecting their historic pasts, wonderful new stores and restaurants are moving in.
Across Florida entire new communities are being built. Developments that include brand new downtowns that didn’t exist before, including nearby ‘Lakewood Ranch Village’, as well as ‘Rosemary Beach’ and ‘Seaside’ in Florida’s panhandle with their brand new town centers designed to look charmingly ‘old’.
‘Seaside’ being the setting for ‘The Truman Show’
There are plans to so develop Florida in the near future that these already existing locations may one day look like innocent baby-steps. So many homes, communities, new downtowns and charming villages are being planned across the entire state that one day there may be very few cow pastures left for us to gaze upon or cows to graze upon.
When I was seventeen I would ‘borrow’ my mom’s Porsche – with its 5-speed stick shift – and drive it out into the Florida countryside, keeping my speed at ‘just above’ 125 mph. Racing along quiet empty country roads, keeping low to the road. My only companion was the occasional cow and horse I’d pass while traveling really fast. I will personally miss all of this, should all this development come to pass.
With all of this refurbishing and planning evolving everywhere else, what of our own little ‘Braden-town’?
I believe there are places within our otherwise beautiful paradise that if given the proper vision and support they could become unique local spots. Able to attract tourists to our brand new hot spots. And one of the ‘spots’ I can imagine becoming a really wonderful place for everyone is:
‘The Town of Manatee‘
So many times I’ve driven through this tiny old town.
Ever since I was a little boy sitting in the backseat of my parent’s car, wondering what was this cute little assemblage of rustic older buildings just east of Bradenton. That had such charm but always seemed so under-used.
I feel the same way today.
I believe that if we re-think this area, re-imagine what can happen in this charmingly intimate collection of beautiful older buildings, our local little ‘Town of Manatee’ could become a most popular ‘hot spot’ – even across the entire USA. If properly realized, this ‘what-was-old-has-become-new-again’ setting could become ‘the’ most desirable place to live, to go, to be, to enjoy – anywhere in Florida.
And Bradenton, our own little Bradenton, could become quite famous. In tour guides, on YouTubes, and inside the pages of design magazines.
But, to put a mild tone of foreboding on all of this….
If Bradenton does not consider upgrading and enhancing its downtown so that it will attract more people to ‘enjoy’ our downtown, all of the new development plans I mentioned earlier, with all of the ‘everything’ they will be offering in the not too distant future, of visionary places to go and incredible things to do – like nothing Florida has ever witnessed before, will so draw people away to their exciting new ‘hot spots’, our local downtown Bradenton may one day become not much more than a ghost town. Not unlike the ‘Town of Manatee’ is today.
What I propose is as follows:
The existing ‘Town of Manatee’ buildings can be ‘cleaned up’, refurbished, and made to look fresh and new again, yet retain that wonderful vintage antique appearance:
Both during the day, and illuminated at night:
The buildings’ facades can be refurbished and decorated to become truly attractive, while also maintaining their original historic nature:
The connecting sidewalks can create a wonderful place for people to stroll:
The renovated building interiors can feature nice restaurants:
As well as upscale drinking establishments:
And wonderful places to enjoy live music:
For those who desire a strong pick-me-up and a few minutes respite before hitting the road, perhaps an authentic bookstore that serves real homemade coffee:
One building has already made real effort to create a pleasant outdoor environment:
I believe a delightful outdoor ambiance such as this can be taken even further so that all of the buildings can offer diverse intimate seating areas for dining and drinking:
“Main Streets” can be further enhanced with design details that just simply make an intimate downtown setting more pleasant and fun:
Connecting to Manatee Avenue are two very nice residential streets: ‘9th St E’ and ’10th St E’. Both lead to the Manatee River. There at the river’s edge is already a public domain of landscaping and seawall.
This area is not very distant from both a popular seafood restaurant and a future new children’s playground and public park.
I believe these two streets can be attractively landscaped to entice people to walk or ride in the back of a horse-and-buggy over to the river down a street lined with palms – inspired by Bradenton’s past:
This river’s edge at the end of 9th and 10th streets can be upgraded to include seating areas for people to relax and enjoy, inspired by what the City of Bradenton has already accomplished so beautifully with its “River Walk”:
And perhaps even attract boats for people to arrive and leave by, inspired by another Bradenton’s past:
These streets as charming pedestrian walkways that run between a fun and exciting ‘downtown’ where people can go, shop, dine and dance, and the beautiful park-like setting at the river’s edge, may inspire some of the older homes along these streets to open to the public as ‘bed-and-breakfasts’:
There also exists a body of water situated between these two streets just behind the buildings facing Manatee Avenue. A pond which is under used and under designed.
This fenced in pond could become a truly attractive park, and part of this lovely walk to the river:
During the day, and at night:
There is, I sincerely believe, much potential to this beautiful area.
And in the future.
© Hans Carl Clausen
President & Director
Captured On Film Productions Inc
A non-profit corporation expressly formed to educate and to inspire.