ARTIST’S RENDERING/EMILY ANNE SMITH
This artist’s rendering shows the locations of an outdoor performing arts pavilion, a nature center and parking areas in a plan proposed by a group in Bradenton Beach.
By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
BRADENTON BEACH – The group of three Bradenton Beach residents responsible for starting the Christmas Prelude many years ago is looking now to leave a different kind of legacy in the form of a performing arts pavilion and eco/nature center in Coquina Park Bayside, south of the city.
The group, known as The Legacy III, Inc., made its first pitch at the Manatee County Tourist Development Council (TDC) Monday morning, asking for its support. The members of The Legacy III are local designer local designer Emily Anne Smith, president; Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, vice-president; and former city clerk Lea Ann Bessonette, secretary and treasurer.
"We are not coming here looking for money. Hopefully, we never will have to," Smith told the board. "We have found tremendous interest in the private sector and will look toward the community and grants to come up with the money."
In addition to The Legacy III, a core group of supporters has been formed to include Bradenton Beach developer and TDC member David Teitelbaum; Holmes Beach City Commissioner David Zaccagnino; Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Mark Davis; Sun House and BridgeWalk owner Barbara Rodocker; and restaurateur Ed Chiles.
A strange set of events brought them all together.
"About a year ago, I had a conversation with David Zaccagnino who had been at another beach location that had a clamshell auditorium for outdoor performances," Gould said. "I had the idea of having something like that, only at the county beach in Holmes Beach.
"I spoke with an architect who said Coquina Beach had a lot more parking," he added. "I talked with David Teitelbaum, who said let’s float this at the TDC meeting."
He did, and according to Teitelbaum, the TDC did not show much support.
"I didn’t know that Emily Anne Smith already had plans for an outdoor performing arts center," Gould said. "David said we had to meet and when I saw them, it blew me away."
According to the supporters, the outdoor pavilion and eco/nature center would tie in with many of the other plans that the city has been working on or accomplished. They include the city’s Scenic Highway and Waterfronts Florida designations, the reconstruction of the Bridge Street Pier and the city’s bid to become a stop on a future water taxi in Manatee County. In addition, they say the two structures would tie in with the National Park Service’s designated Gulf Coast Heritage Trail. The cost is estimated between $3 and $5 million.
The outdoor open air performing arts pavilion is designed to seat up to 2,500 people on sod terraces in picnic-style seating. The stage would be to the north of the seating and there would be a parking lot for buses north of the stage. South of that would be a parking lot for up to 230 vehicles. Two docks with moorings for boats and a water taxi would be located east of the parking lot.
Smith suggested the performing arts center could serve as a home for the Anna Maria Island Chorus and Community Orchestra (AMICCO). When contacted in northern Florida, AMICCO Association President John Horrigan said they would welcome an opportunity to play there.
"If it is acoustically viable, we would be very much interested," he said.
The eco/nature center would be located south of the lot, just north of Leffis Key preserve. It would house displays of all life forms native to the bay and Gulf waters as well as upland Island habitats. There would be a huge aquarium there, hopefully with the help of Mote Marine. The second floor would hold a meeting room to seat 52 people.
This project, if it comes to fruition, would fulfill part of the city’s vision plan for a performing arts or cultural center in the southern portion of the Island. As for parking and access, The Legacy III estimates that there would be more than 300 parking spaces along Cortez Beach and that the parking lot reconfiguration program that is going on in Coquina Beach would add another 1,100 spaces. The parking lot at the center would add 200 spaces, bringing the total parking spaces available to more than 1,600. Teitelbaum said his daughter, Wyndi, who had lived in California before moving to Holmes Beach, made a suggestion that would make a lot of the parking spaces more accessible.
"The new Coquina Trail is eight to 10 feet wide and in California, they had electric trams about four feet wide that carry 34 people at a shot," he said. "If you used them here, it would make it easier for people to park along Cortez Beach and get to the complex."
The next step, Gould and Teitelbaum said, would be to take it to the Island cities for their input.