BRADENTON -- About 100 residents and dignitaries gathered at a vacant tract of land Oct. 22 for a historic moment: Ground was broken for a future commercial plaza, located along First Street/US 301 just south of 13th Avenue West. The construction project that will soon follow promises to bring the community something it has sought for years – a neighborhood grocery store.
Pictured at right is Mayor Wayne Poston. Standing next to the mayor and holding one of the shovels is Mary Brewer, daughter of the late Minnie L. Rogers. Mrs. Brewer is standing next to her grandson. The plaza will be named Minnie L. Rogers Plaza and Retail Center in her honor.
Mrs. Rogers and her late husband, G.D. Rogers, were two of the most prominent residents of Bradenton, both making their mark as community activists and trailblazers for the African-American community. Mrs. Rogers founded the West Bradenton Negro Women's Club (now defunct) that served as the nucleus of the City’s African American community during the first half of the 20th Century. Its headquarters once stood on this now vacant tract of land.
G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary School, located on 13th Avenue West a few blocks west of the site of the groundbreaking, is named in honor of Mr. Rogers. It opened in Fall 2009 as the first “green school” in Manatee County. A Tampa golf course and a street in Orlando also are named after Mr. Rogers.
In addition to the women’s club, there was another significant building that once stood at this site. The 13th Avenue Community Recreation Center was there for more than half a century before relocating to a new and larger facility at the expanded Norma Lloyd Park in east Bradenton. The City deeded the empty 13th Avenue site to the Central Community Redevelopment Agency which, through public and private partnerships, paved the way for this new commercial development in a growing area of central Bradenton.
This growth began in 2002 when a community of 160 new townhomes abutting the future Minnie L. Rogers Plaza and Retail Center opened its doors to residents. More townhomes, apartments (including senior housing) and houses followed over the years. These modern, colorful homes replaced a slew of weathered, barrack-style homes that for decades suffered from crime, flooding and general neglect. The new community under the management of the Bradenton Housing Authority was named Bradenton Village; it became a model for other area housing authorities seeking to reinvent their public housing.
Pictured behind the mayor is Patrick Carnegie, Executive Director of United Community Centers Inc., the group that oversees the recreation center. Standing next to Mr. Carnegie is Tim Polk, who serves as Executive Director of both the Bradenton Planning & Community Development Department and the Central Community Redevelopment Agency. Holding the shovel on the far right is Councilman Harold Byrd, the City Council’s representative of Bradenton’s Ward 5. Behind him is Stephen Thompson, Chairman of the Central CRA.
Construction on the plaza is expected to begin before the end of this year with a completion date late summer/early fall of next year.
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