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Realize Bradenton Awarded $100,000 Grant To Engage Community On Riverwalk Expansion

BRADENTON, Fla. — Realize Bradenton received a $100,000 grant from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Donor Advised Fund of the Manatee Community Foundation to work with the community to develop ideas regarding physical, public art, and programmatic opportunities for the planned Bradenton Riverwalk expansion. The Creating Together Project aligns the priorities of the two grant-funding agencies: Manatee Community Foundation’s interest in positive impact through partnerships and Knight Foundation’s emphasis on engaging and connecting citizens to shape their city’s future.

“Through our long-standing relationship with the Knight Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation has enjoyed facilitating meaningful philanthropy that nurtures local talent and builds opportunities for informed and engaged communities where all can co-create possibilities,” said Susie Bowie, MCF executive director. “Realize Bradenton has been a trusted and enthusiastic partner that speaks to the heart of what we want to accomplish together.”

The City of Bradenton recently announced an eastward expansion to the Bradenton Riverwalk, a popular public park along the shoreline of the Manatee River. Realize Bradenton was instrumental in the development of the original Riverwalk and will play a pivotal role working with Kimley-Horn, one of the pre-eminent urban design and landscape architectural firms in Florida. Kimley-Horn, who was contracted by the City of Bradenton to develop preliminary plans, will work with realize Bradenton using a community-based design process for the Riverwalk expansion with civic, health, and economic benefits in mind.

“This grant will allow Realize Bradenton to implement the Creating Together Project, which will continue the community involvement that assisted in the planning of the original Riverwalk in 2012,” said Sue Revell, Vice Chair of the Realize Bradenton Board of Directors. “Working together works. We look forward to the redevelopment and economic growth that occurs from engaging people, transforming places, and realizing possibilities.”

The Creating Together Project will feature a Millennial Leadership Team who will work with the Florida Department of Health, Manatee County, UnidosNow, and other civic organizations to leverage arts, culture, history, creativity, and wellness to build the quality of place that is relevant to the new public park. The project will add new aspects to the planning process, including the creation of temporary mini-parks to test design ideas, Spanish-language outreach, as well as thorough documentation to share Bradenton’s Riverwalk strategies with other cities across the country. The original 1.5-mile-long Riverwalk accelerated redevelopment in the urban core and spurred many downtown projects, bringing new hotels, housing, businesses, and jobs to the area.

The City of Bradenton and Realize Bradenton have worked to attract and retain Millennials to the area through PopUps for a Purpose and Inside Access, both of which were Millennial-focused projects funded by grants from Knight Cities Challenge and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Donor Advised Fund of the Manatee Community Foundation. The momentum gained through these projects will continue through the Millennial Leadership Team.

As part of this grant, the Center for Active Design, a nonprofit that uses evidence-based design to foster healthy and engaged communities, will conduct surveys of residents, exercise enthusiasts, business owners, visitors, and others. The results will provide practical recommendations for park design, wellness programs, and stewardship of the new Riverwalk expansion.

“The City, Realize Bradenton, Kimley-Horn, and other partners, have developed an inclusive process that will create another world-class public space in Bradenton,” said Wayne Poston, Mayor of the City of Bradenton. “The existing Riverwalk is as diverse as it is beautiful. It works for Bradenton and beyond because of that diversity. The Riverwalk expansion, like the original Riverwalk, will be shaped by civic involvement and reflect community and city priorities. I look forward to joining our neighborhoods together through additional public space.”

The Urban Land Institute, the world’s largest network of cross-disciplinary land use experts, recently recognized the Bradenton Riverwalk in a list of ten notable “Waterfront Open Spaces” from around the world because of the Riverwalk’s ability to “attract people to downtown and reconnect the urban realm to waterfronts that have long been inaccessible.”

Realize Bradenton has received other notable awards reflecting their community benefit work, including: Finalist for Manatee Chamber of Commerce Champion of Healthcare (2017); Nonprofit of the Year by the Manatee Chamber of Commerce (2016); and Outstanding Public Interest Group of the Year by the American Planning Association (2013).

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About Realize Bradenton
Realize Bradenton is a nonprofit organization that promotes redevelopment and economic growth in downtown Bradenton by transforming places, engaging people, and realizing possibilities. For more information visit:

About Manatee Community Foundation
Manatee Community Foundation partners with our citizens to strengthen and enhance our community through philanthropy, education, and service—now and forever.  Since 1998, more than $20 million in grants and scholarships have been awarded through the generosity of donors who work with the Foundation for their charitable giving. For more information visit:

About John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. Investing in journalism, the arts, and the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers, their goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which are essential for a healthy democracy. For more information visit:

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