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Developers Whiting Preston, Richard Bedford discuss reshaping Manatee County, April 19, 2016

“Preston focused on what he considers to be the biggest issue facing his planned development Lake Flores in West Bradenton — traffic. ‘Lake Flores is about an urban plan conceived behind various plans and principals that mitigate traffic trips,’ Preston said. One of the principals includes the use of ‘complete streets.’ Complete streets create a safe street environment for pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and transit riders.”

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Peninsula Bay’s Projected Economic Impact

Peninsula Bay is likely to have a significant economic impact on Manatee County, both during the development process (which could last as long as 10 years) and once the community is complete. The building of homes and non-residential properties is projected to generate an estimated 2,700 construction jobs over the course of the build-out, and the community itself is projected to have as many as 164 permanent on-site employees. This is in addition to the jobs that will be created to provide goods and services to the neighborhood’s new residents and commercial tenants.

Peninsula Bay is also projected to have a positive fiscal benefit on Manatee County as a whole. This proposed influx of new dollars could be used to provide new and enhance existing services and infrastructure. Consultants predict that, once the community is complete, the annual net fiscal impact to the county will be approximately $4.5 million, while annual net fiscal impact to local schools would be nearly $880,000.

A New Kind of Development for Manatee County

Peninsula Bay aims to bring a new kind of development to Manatee County that integrates the beautiful natural habitats of Palma Sola Bay with a relaxed resort community experience. In contrast to some historic patterns, Peninsula Bay will respect the coastline of Palma Sola Bay by conserving the lush mangroves along its shore. The view of the property from the bay will look much like it does today, with a natural frontage that is home to a variety of water species and birds.

Existing wetlands along Cortez Road will also be conserved along with other open space providing the community with a green “front door.” A marina at Peninsula Bay will provide new waterfront dining and boat storage options for the West Manatee community, while a boat ramp is planned to accommodate a water-oriented lifestyle for our neighbors.

The community will be designed for both residents and visitors to have a relaxed vacation experience, with the ability to walk from their homes or condos to food and entertainment options, or for a stroll along a marina boardwalk. Healthy lifestyles will be encouraged by a network of nature trails around a large internal lake that will be perfect for paddle boards and kayaks, with a launch provided to reach the bay waters.

Some key ideas in the plan for Peninsula Bay are:

  • Diversity of Uses: A mix of waterfront marina shops, homes, and condos within the same general area promotes diverse activity and helps to create a relaxed, convenient vacation experience.
  • Sense of Place: Quality architecture and urban design will combine to create a beautiful place at which people love to spend time and to revisit. Beauty, aesthetics, and comfort extend to building style, landscaping and streetscaping elements, as well as the use of open spaces and preserve areas.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: An extensive natural trail network will provide views of the bay and natural conservation areas, as well as kayak and paddle board access to both the bay and lake.

Peninsula Bay will also support Manatee County’s new focus on Complete Streets. There are different approaches to Complete Streets, depending on specific circumstances, but general elements include wide sidewalks, bicycle lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent and safe crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals and ramps, narrower travel lanes, roundabouts, and more. The Complete Streets philosophy has been used successfully to help a number of communities get the most from their existing road capacity.

In Boulder Colorado, the city has invested in Complete Streets design for many years and has noted impressive results, including a nearly 14% reduction in the use of single-occupancy vehicles in work commutes. The city reports the number of people walking to work to be at three times the national average; their transit use is twice the national average; and their bicycle commuting share is 18 times the national average.

Complete Streets allow for a variety of transportation options, making it easier for children and older adults to get out and stay connected to the community. These approaches promote a safer environment for pedestrians, shortened traveling times, reduced congestion, and improved land use that creates an attractive combination of homes, buildings, and street design.

Mangrove Protection at Peninsula Bay

mangrove-smProtecting the environment is a top priority at Peninsula Bay. An expert team of biologists, engineers, and planners have studied the land thoroughly and developed a program to preserve and protect the property’s naturally occurring mangroves. The mangroves primarily run along Palma Sola Bay and occupy the majority of the wetlands on the Peninsula Bay property. These will be kept in their current condition, while other mangrove depressions along Cortez Road will be enhanced and cleared of non-native vegetation such as Brazilian Peppertrees and Australian Pines.

Additionally, selected areas will receive mangrove plantings. Overall the program will result in more than 81 acres of mangrove habitat preservation, enhancement, and protection. Also of concern are endangered and/or threatened wildlife, known to live in the Palma Sola Bay mangrove habitat – these and other native species will certainly benefit from the permanent protection of the on-site mangroves.

Water Quality Improvements By Design

One of the most ingenious design characteristics of Peninsula Bay is its potential for positive impact on the water quality of the surrounding area. The proposed upland cut waterway would connect Palma Sola Bay and the Cortez Peninsula Canal – which is currently a dead-end waterway with stagnant water at its end point – allowing boaters to access Sarasota Bay. This upland cut waterway would create a natural flushing mechanism, allowing water to flow with the tides between the two bodies of water, significantly improving water quality in the Cortez Peninsula Canal.

Also of potentially significant environmental benefit is a 67-acre lake that is a central part of the proposed Peninsula Bay community. This lake would be created between the mangroves on Palma Sola Bay and the development’s residential areas, forming a scenic waterfront buffer that would filter potential runoff before reaching the bay, while protecting the property from potential storm damage. The combination of improved water quality and healthy mangroves would encourage a thriving food chain by providing a habitat for breeding marine life and protection for their maturing offspring.


The Cortez Bridge… Now What?

8qKr0cFThe original Cortez Bridge was a wooden structure built in 1921 to connect the fishing village of Cortez to what is now Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach. Prior to that construction, Anna Maria Island had been accessible only by boat.

Fast forward to today, and the current Cortez Bridge is the subject of spirited debate. The existing bridge was built in 1965 and has been deemed by the Florida Department of Transportation as having outlived its original 50-year lifespan. A recent repair project extended the bridge’s usefulness another 10 years, but FDOT officials warn that the bridge will continue to deteriorate due to “extremely aggressive” environmental conditions resulting from saltwater spray.

The big question has become, “now what?” Options under discussion include replacing the existing structure with a low-level drawbridge, a mid-level drawbridge, or a high-level fixed bridge. Another possibility is adding a new bridge to Longboat Key. There are pros and cons with every scenario, and many people have definite opinions about what should be done.

As time moves on, a decision will have to be made about the future of the Cortez Bridge. This process will certainly include much community input. We look forward to being part of that discussion and doing what we can to help the community make the best decision for all concerned.

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Connecting People To The Water

boat rampClose proximity to the water is one of Peninsula Bay’s most enviable attributes, and maximizing its accessibility and enjoyment is a top priority for our development team. We will work closely with the county to make the idea of a new boat ramp a reality. This concept is certain to be welcomed by area boaters and fishermen, who must currently make do with overcrowded facilities.

We will continue to look for ways to expand opportunities for people to experience the natural beauty of our waterways and the protected mangroves that border Peninsula Bay. Ideas for additional water-related enhancements have been brought forward by others in the community – such as a water taxi or multimodal transportation across a new bridge – and we look forward to exploring the possibilities they represent.

Peninsula Bay Project Description

The following General Project Description is excerpted from the Peninsula Bay General Development Plan as submitted to Manatee County for staff review. We are sharing it here because we believe it provides a good, comprehensive overview of the development.


1. Major Elements

Peninsula Bay is a project of approximately 358 acres proposed for west Manatee County. The vision for Peninsula Bay is an eco-friendly waterfront fishing village and resort, building on the character of the Cortez community while integrating new vacation and living options. This site is part of the Southwest TIF District which indicates it is in an area that the County sees as a prime location for development and redevelopment. The site is an infill property on land that is primarily already disturbed and there is no significant proposed clearing of mangroves. Our team understands that the ecosystem supported by the mangroves is part of the appeal of this site and it is essential that it be preserved for the future of Peninsula Bay and Manatee County.

Peninsula Bay will also provide significant recreational opportunities for residents of West Bradenton including a small marina area with restaurants and water-related retail overlooking boat berths. The installation of a tidal connection to Sarasota Bay has the potential to improve flushing and thus water quality in the system connected to the new marina. An important element of the project is the opportunity for a boat ramp and boat trailer parking available to the general public. Manatee County has been seeking an opportunity for a public boat ramp in this area for some time and it has been difficult to identify a suitable, available location. The Peninsula Bay boat ramp site is the perfect location for this public amenity, accessible from a major road, insulated from existing neighborhoods by the new Peninsula Bay neighborhood which will be designed to accommodate it, and using a channel to the Bay that is already existing for most of its length.

Peninsula Bay will enhance West Bradenton by providing new living and recreation options. It is being conceived as a very special waterfront resort community with its own unique and distinctive ambiance of quiet, narrow streets that are attractively landscaped and invite pedestrian activity and biking. The community will be designed to encourage residents to kayak, walk, and bicycle with streets designed to slow traffic and homes located close to sidewalks and paths. This is consistent with the County’s How Might We Grow Vision which recommends:

  • “Remove barriers to mixed uses, along with a mixture of building types, supported by pedestrian-friendly, walkable communities along transit routes.”
  • “Infrastructure improvements will likely focus on increasing opportunities for walking, cycling and transit.”
  • “Remove barriers for more urban-like characteristics (i.e., greater building heights, setbacks/build-to lines, mix of uses horizontally & vertically…”

The current rezoning request is consistent with the intensity of the current Comprehensive Plan designation as a Res-6 and Res-9. The current request is to rezone to PDMU which is intended to allow a flexible approach to encourage innovative land use techniques and new housing typologies, creative urban design, environmental protections, and the judicious use of sustainable development practices and principles for large scale developments. This development proposal’s infill location is also consistent with Manatee County Comprehensive Plan’s goal of limiting urban sprawl, providing a predictable and functional urban form, encouraging development in the existing core areas, and using existing public facilities in a cost efficient manner.

The proposed rezoning application is accompanied by a General Development Plan which would allow 1,800 housing units, 9 acres of water-dependent and water-enhanced commercial development, 3.5 acres of Marina-oriented lodging, a bed and breakfast, 101 boat berths, and 2.7 acres of dry boat storage. Peninsula Bay’s development program also sets aside 83 acres of wetlands and 96 acres of native uplands, open spaces, wetland buffers, and ponds, as well as 13 acres to accommodate a publically accessible boat ramp and marina basin. Overall site will include over 50% open and natural spaces.

In its final form, the Peninsula Bay project will house 140.1 acres of residential development and 290,000 square feet of commercial, hotel, and dry boat storage uses. Other uses include preserved open areas and wetland / coastal buffers. The project will be guided by a set of Design Requirements that support a walkable, water-oriented resort community.“

Lake Flores Receives Outstanding Planning Project Award From Florida Planning and Zoning Association

Lake Flores, a mixed-use residential development proposed for southwest Manatee County, was recently recognized by the Florida Planning and Zoning Association as being as “Outstanding Planning Project.” The award was presented to Whiting Preston by the association’s Gulf Coast Chapter on December 4th at its 2015 Holiday Luncheon in Bradenton, Florida.

“On behalf of the entire Lake Flores team, I’m honored to receive this recognition,” said Preston. “The Lake Flores plan has been many years in the making and has involved the time and expertise of countless individuals. We especially appreciate the staff from the Manatee County Planning Department and the input and advice they contributed throughout this process.”

Lake Flores is planned to offer a New Urbanism concept with residents living, working and playing in a pedestrian-oriented community. A multi-modal trail will connect residential and commercial areas to reduce internal traffic and promote the use of alternative means of transportation. Located on nearly 1,300 acres stretching from IMG Academy west to 86th Street between Cortez Road and El Conquistador Parkway, the property had been used for agricultural purposes by Manatee Fruit Company for the last 50 years. The Lake Flores community is expected to gradually transform this area into a bustling community with more than 200 acres of lakes and open spaces. Lake Flores may include as many as 6,500 homes, 3 million square feet of retail and office space, and 500 hotel rooms.