West Bradenton Gets A Walkable Community
May 6, 2018
West Bradenton is a fantastic location for the person or family that wants an active lifestyle and would enjoy the benefits of a walkable community. Minutes from sugary beaches, minutes from mangrove-laden waterways, and the kind of weather to enjoy them year-round. Biking and walking are so profitable for the body and soul that creating places that encourage people to get out and be active are a good idea. Aqua by the Bay is designed around the concept of walking communities. According to the Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA, report, Stepping Into Healthier Communities:
Space design and perception (eg, perceived safety and curb appeal), neighborhood maintenance, and other built environment features can affect people’s willingness to be physically active (Nasar, 2016). Communities that are safe for walking also can reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases, as residents choose to walk or bike rather than drive.(Frank & Engelke, 2005) Walkable communities are also attractive to businesses, which can help local economies thrive. Everyone deserves a safe place to walk, and more communities recognize the multiple benefits of designing walkable and inclusive spaces.[i]
This Bayfront development is certainly more vertical than most other parts of Manatee County, with approvals for 16 95’-tall condominium buildings[ii], but the trade-off is that there is more green-space for walking, biking, and play. According to the original Aqua siteplans, “Additional recreational amenities may include fitness centers, multi-use fields, boardwalks, trails, observation and fishing piers, dog parks, playgrounds and tennis courts.” While Manatee County has historically sought to avoid vertical structures to preserve the look of the coast-line, the presence of a limited number of units allows more people to enjoy the spectacular views of the Gulf from a distance that does not affect the waterfront itself. Much of the discussion regarding new development in the area hinges around the impact on the bay.
The mixture of single-family homes with low and mid-rise condos and apartments with retail and commercial space will encourage people with various means to be able to enjoy this community. The plan is to make retail space within a quarter-mile walk from most homes so that biking to the store for a few ingredients isn’t just a concept that people tell their grand-kids about. Imagine calling for a reservation, walking over to a friend’s door to meet up, and heading out together to dinner. Afterward being able to treat your body to a healthy after-dinner walk home, or on to other shopping. An added benefit of a walkable community is familiarity. When we walk regularly, we connect with people and build relationships that are mutually beneficial. Since Bradenton is a destination for people from inland Florida to Canada, those relationships turn into helpful referrals, friendships, and expanding our knowledge of the world. The human scale of this kind of community helps us maintain our humanity and a healthy community interdependence. Philip Langdon, in his book, Within Walking Distance: Creating Livable Communities for All[iii], advocates for the intentional planning of developments around walking in order to create a better quality of life. It is exciting to see that Aqua by the Bay and other upcoming communities, such as Lake Flores will encourage a “small-town” flavor so needed by our culture.
[i] Stepping Into Healthier Communities: Revisiting the Progress of Step It Up! (2017). Public Health Reports, 132(1), 3–5. http://doi.org/10.1177/0033354916679982
[ii] Morse, H. (2017, October 4). County commission OKs Aqua by the Bay in 7-0 vote. Retrieved February 22, 2018, from http://www.bradenton.com/news/local/article176721351.html
[iii] Langdon, P. (2017). Within Walking Distance: Creating Livable Communities for All. Washington, DC: Island Press/Center for Resource Economics.