The University of Bradenton

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Urban studies emphatically state that a major means for improving a downtown is to offer a college campus in the center of the city.
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  • College students who study and graduate downtown often pursue jobs downtown
  • College graduates bring increased skills and training to downtown companies
  • A campus setting inside the city improves a downtown both financially and culturally
  • Still more students are lured to a downtown campus because of increased job opportunities
And, diverse students are drawn to an urban location for the abundance of cultural amenities that are only available in a city setting.
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Florida has two wonderful examples where having a college in a city center has proven to be exponentially beneficial to the success of the downtown area.
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Stetson University ~ Deland Florida
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Deland has been voted ‘Best Downtown’. Touted as one of Florida’s small town treasures. Its historically preserved Main Street is lined with successful gift shops and unique restaurants. The presence of Stetson University enhances the community’s rich cultural offerings with theater, music concerts, a vibrant speakers program and an art museum. Of most significance, the presence of students and their families offer a constant financial boon to the city as they shop and dine downtown year-round.
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Rollins College ~ Winter Park Florida
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Much the same can be said of Rollins College positive financial and cultural influence on Winter Park.  Perhaps it can best be summed up by sharing that Paul McCartney gave a private performance and interview at Rollins College to celebrate the recent graduation of his step-son.
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Bradenton has for too many years been experiencing an evaporation of downtown business. There have been of late far too many abandoned empty buildings and ‘for lease’ signs.
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A college campus within the city of Bradenton can significantly reverse this trend by attracting much additional life, talent and livelihood to our downtown.
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But where would be a good location for a downtown college campus?
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I recommend 13th Street.
In-between Manatee Avenue and Sixth Avenue.
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A campus location must be safe for students to mingle, walk, hang-out or cross the street. 
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This single city block is unique in that it literally repels vehicular traffic.
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This is due to both Manatee Avenue and Sixth Avenue  – its ‘cross avenues’ – being major thoroughfares that go only one way. The intense number of cars & SUVs passing by on these two avenues never stop. They are both forever filled with heavy traffic that form a kind of impassable ‘barrier wall’ at both ends of this street. As well, there is little that attracts traffic just north of Manatee Avenue. Even more impactful, the county bus stop on 13th Street just south of Sixth Avenue blocks thru traffic.
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Having a bus stop so close by is another excellent reason to have a campus immediately adjacent.
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This single block is so vacated and so un-visited it has been, for years, essentially ‘dead’.  Its buildings and street remain almost empty almost all of the time. Yet, because of what I describe above, it is an exceptionally protected space, especially for pedestrians to use and congregate.  Which makes it the perfect setting to build a campus filled with life and learning.  Even more, this street has several wonderful older buildings with varied interiors well suited to provide the amenities a college campus typically offers.   These include:
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  • individual classrooms
  • a large auditorium space
  • a cafeteria
  • a college bookstore
  • a student hub for social gathering
  • adjacent parking
Should this campus grow in popularity and size, unique visionary architecture can later be added to these original ‘vintage’ Bradenton buildings.
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And because this single block of 13th Street is essentially free of any vehicular traffic  –  and this is one of my personal favorites regarding this idea  –  it can be easily and successfully blocked off from any and all cars and completely converted into a pedestrian zone, filled with benches, tables, planters, lighting, and food kiosks.  Potentially making this one of downtown Bradenton’s most popular destinations.
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Having students study downtown would be a real boon to our downtown.
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A downtown campus would attract educated talented professionals to work downtown after graduating.
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It would increase downtown revenue by having students relax, dine and shop downtown all year long.  And depending upon their area of study, such as ‘Marketing’, students enrolled downtown may make their homework the study of ways to diversify and further improve our city.
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And, most far reaching of all, a downtown campus will enhance Bradenton’s standing as a cultural mecca across Florida and the United States.
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I still remember the joy and pride I felt the day I graduated, and was able to turn my tassel by moving it from the right side of my cap to the left.
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I am sure we all do.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if part of the downtown Bradenton experience could offer this momentous moment in a person’s life to future college students, trained and enthusiastic young individuals, who will then go on after graduating to both live and work in our downtown area?

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© Hans Carl Clausen
President & Director
Captured On Film Productions Inc

A non-profit corporation expressly formed to educate and to inspire.

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