BRADENTON -- Not with a bang, but with a whimper, the downsized River Song luxury apartment building that would have sat on prime riverfront property in downtown Bradenton died a quiet death at City Hall this morrning. It was revived again a few minutes later.
The original proposal remains alive, developer Ed Vogler told The Bradenton Times immediately after the meeting.
Members of the Bradenton City Council took less than 90 minutes to decide they wanted the project Bradenton Roverfront Properties had promised them: a mixed use development with stores and restaurants. They have waited more than a decade to get it.
"The vision of what the Bradenton City Council wanted and the vision of what they got are different," said a resident who opposed an amended use proposed by Vogler on behalf of Wells Fargo Bank, the property's owner, and Oxford Properties, a developer.
The amended use would have eliminated the stores and restaurants and replaced them with two ground floors of grade-accessible parking garage, albeit with spectacular views, atop which three floors of one-bedroom luxury apartments renting for $1,172 a month would rest.
After the hearing, Vogler abruptly rose from his seat, grabbed his briefcase and rose and walked toward the door, but was intercepted by a crowd of well-wishers and other developers, including some who had opposed the project.
"Their opposition made absolutely no sense," he told one man. "Absolutely none."
Also in the crowded council chambers were Manatee County Commission members Michael Gallen and John Chappie. A number of Tampa-area television stations and local newspapers covered the story, and county-operated MGA-TV will present the meeting both on cable and online.
Development of the remaining 13 acres of the Sandpile, a riverfront strip of land that is built upon dredged-up sand from the Manatee River, has come in fits and starts. So have other developments over the last 45 years, when it was first created. There have been some notable successes, like the downtown Holiday Inn, but a long string of failed ideas, too. Now only 13 acres remain of what was to have included another hotel, a 20-screen multiplex, restaurants and stores - especially a grocery store - that various city councils and residents have longed for.
Vogler rejected the idea that the project was dead. His face turned red as it became clear the council's unanimous vote was against him, but the red had drained away a few minutes later as he told the Bradenton Times "There's still an approved mixed-use project on the boards."
He's been an optimist for a long time. Vogler first proposed a 28-acre mixed-use plan with developer Richard Hatfield for all those uses 13 years ago.
It seemed likely that if the developers have a change of heart, they could still move ahead with the 3.4-acre plan.
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