Monday, August 08, 2005

Palmetto eager for growth

Sanctuary Cove's residential, shopping mix expected to raise city's image

By KATHLEEN CULLINAN

PALMETTO -- Once the butt of jokes, Palmetto could soon have another upscale waterfront development to bolster its self-esteem.

Sanctuary Cove calls for seven high-rises, more than 150 canal-lined homes and 200,000 square feet of commercial space along the Manatee River.

The development, which is working through the city's planning process, could take seven years to complete. It would join a host of other upscale projects along the river's shores.

Residents and city officials say Sanctuary Cove, like Riviera Dunes before it, is proof that the city is finally coming into its own.

"It means growth, a lot of growth. It means a lot of people. It means a lot to the business community," said Roger Talbot, who's owned the Palmetto Meat Shop for 25 years. "That's what's called progress."

Home shoppers at Sanctuary Cove could pick from 70 attached villas encircling the property, 165 single-family homes overlooking man-made canals in the middle, or 31 homes on one-third of an acre lots overlooking a mangrove preserve and the river.

Mayor Larry Bustle said Sanctuary Cove's mix of commercial and residential will be a convenience for those who live there.

"It puts people in the area where you need them," Bustle said. "It puts people on the streets so they can patronize the cafes and the gift stores."

The 210-acre property would stretch from U.S. 301 down to the river, with a strip of mangrove forest and a walking path buffering the homes against the water.

Canals would stripe through the currently empty field next to a factory on 301. Sanctuary Cove's mid-sized single-family homes would each overlook a street on one side and water on the other -- an innovative way of meeting water runoff requirements and sprucing the place up for residents, city officials said.

And residents of the 12-story high-rises would have good views of water on both sides.

Like Talbot, longtime resident and former City Council member Ron Witt said new projects like Sanctuary Cove are great for a city that's struggled with image problems in the past.

"We've seen our share of a lot of problems," Witt said, thinking back on rutted roads and businesses that repeatedly chose Bradenton over Palmetto.

"The business sector is taking off because it can support itself off the population there," he said. When buyers come to Palmetto for Sanctuary Cove, he said, retailers and other businesses follow close behind.

All of which spells change for Palmetto.

Talbot says the rush of progress is good, citing the old adage that what doesn't move forward ends up dead.

But when it comes to his own restaurant, Talbot said, "I'm not going to make any changes."

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