Palmetto Green Street Construction Starts
PALMETTO – This week, construction begins on the very first green street in Manatee County. Fifth Street West in Downtown Palmetto will be redeveloped to integrate bio swales and other botanical features into the right-of-way landscaping that will in turn cut down on pollution by filtrating storm water before it enters the Manatee River.
“The two block spans was never irrigated with storm water drains because it is on a natural hill,” explained Charlie Ugarte, the project architect. “The fact that it remained untouched by city pipes and slopes naturally made it a perfect candidate for low impact design.”
Local developer NDC Construction Co. of Bradenton was awarded the $1.35 million dollar contract; they were the lowest bidder. The Palmetto Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is funding the plan with the help of a grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) in the amount of $582,000. The venture is expected to be completed by late August.
Ugarte said he was inspired by the green streetscapes that are popular in Oregon as part of urban infrastructure which is incorporated into the aesthetics of the community. Native Florida plants and trees will be utilized as landscaping; their roots will serve to filter street runoff. No pipes will be installed for the streetscape, instead all the asphalt and brick that is utilized will be porous – allowing for water to pass through it.
The project is just the start of a plan to re-urbanize downtown Palmetto into a compact community. The CRA hopes to bring back the “small town flavor” that was created over a century ago when Palmetto originally became a city. The philosophy behind the current land development code reinforces urban sprawl and discourages community-enhancing infill development, but the new CRA promotes an unbroken pattern of people-friendly streets and diverse storefronts with shops on the first floor, living spaces on the second floor and parking behind the building. The CRA is offering a variety of incentives for developers who chose to construct buildings in accordance with this plan.
“The Fifth Street project is innovative way to create new business opportunities and remove old and outdated buildings and infrastructure,” said Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant. The project beautifies downtown for residents, brings in more business and creates jobs.”
A similar undertaking is in the works for Palmetto’s Riverside Park. The CRA became the first to utilize Environmental Protection Agency Coalition Grants to help offset the development of urban shops near Palmetto’s gateway as well as the enhancement of Palmetto Boat Ramp with increased parking.
“In a the span of two week period, the City Commission has approved $2 million in CRA contracts for two major downtown investments, almost $600,000 of which is a Southwest Florida Water Management District Grant. They are also moving forward to develop the Riverside boat ramp gateway into the City and a new eastside park with the County Commission, West Coast Inland Navigational District and the Sarasota Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization as partners and potentially another $500,000 SWFWMD grant. They should be commended for their vision and foresight,” said Bryant.