BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – Bradenton recently received two unsolicited offers for the 3.9-acre property that’s currently housing its city hall and police department.
In a report dated March 2022, the waterfront property was appraised at $10,460,000.
“When City Hall was built here 22 years ago, it was very controversial. Over the years, people said – questioned if City Hall and the police station should be on the waterfront,” Mayor Gene Brown explained. “In the last year, we got results of a space study, a survey, an appraisal and now there’s an opportunity where two unsolicited offers came in.”
Both offers came in at $10 million.
One developer wants to bring more than 220 luxury rental apartments to the site. The project may also include a mixed-use component of restaurants and/or retail on the ground floor along the waterfront.
The other developer, based out of Bradenton, wants to build a new, mixed-used development on the waterfront property, including a hotel, retail, restaurants, entertainment and residential housing. The housing would include luxury apartments, condos and attainable workforce housing. Barcarrota Development LLC. also offered the current site housing a local newspaper as an option (after renovations) for use as a new City Hall building.
“When you look at what you can do in the moment to bring things to better the community, that is where I am at and I think that is where we are at right now and we are very excited,” Mayor Brown said. “Again, it is going to go through the process of the council and you are going to hear a lot of different opinions, but we are opening this up to the community and going to let developers come in and say what is the best plan. The highest and best use – that is what it is about, bringing people and giving them reasons to be in this town.”
City leaders have said the city has outgrown the building. The two offers haven’t yet been presented to city council. The city administrator says that is expected to happen later this month.
“The city is looking for the highest and best use for this property if it was to consider disposition and sale, and we want know what would really increase the economic impact to the community as well as the redevelopment potential overall for Bradenton,” City Administrator Rob Perry said.
During a joint meeting with Manatee County last month, one councilman expressed hesitation about the offers, pointing out it cost around $10 million to construct the waterfront property back in the 1990s.
“If we put 10 million in it, and we are only getting 10 million now, something is wrong with that process because I have bought a lot of property of my life, and I’ve never sold it 25 years later for only what I had in it,” Councilman Bill Sanders said.
During that meeting, Manatee County commissioners expressed interest in transforming the waterfront area.
“We’ve massively, massively underutilized our waterfront on both sides of the river,” Commissioner George Kruse said. “When you compare it to other places like downtown St. Pete that has cafés and things all on their water, you’ve got Tampa doing Water Street and downtown Sarasota with the Quay and the Ritz and the new Bay project – and we’ve got a City Hall, a county library, a hospital and a retirement home.”
Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge told 8 On Your Side there’s no time like the present to start looking at getting valuable, public property into private hands. He referenced the county’s public library, which is only a few hundred feet west of Bradenton’s City Hall.
“If we were to put those two government buildings back into private hands, it would be a huge economic generator for the downtown area,” said Van Ostenbridge.
County leaders will likely direct staff this week to work on rezoning the Downtown Central Library to T6, which is the maximum allowable height, density and use for the property. The item is on Tuesday’s consent agenda.
“Once we do that, then we should get it appraised and once we have it appraised, we should start to look at other locations for the library,” said Van Ostenbridge. “We don’t just want to sell the library and be done with it, we want to relocate the library. None of the current libraries in Manatee County are in underserved communities; I would love to see our next library in an underserved community.”