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$100,000 Awarded from Knight Donor Advised Fund of MCF for Community Engagement Project

existing-bradenton-riverwalk-01Manatee Community Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to Realize Bradenton through its Knight Donor Advised Fund 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 popular Bradenton Riverwalk, a 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 Planning and Design Engineering in implementing 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 development of the original Riverwalk in 2012,” said Sue Revel, 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.”

Realize Bradenton’s Creating Together Project will seek local input on the Riverwalk expansion by engaging a diverse group of citizens to leverage arts, culture, history, and creativity to build the quality of place that is relevant to the public park and nearby neighborhoods. The original 1.5-mile-long Riverwalk helped accelerate redevelopment in the urban core. This redevelopment spurred many downtown projects, bringing new hotels, housing, businesses, and jobs to the area.

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 and neighborhood organizations. 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 City of Bradenton and Realize Bradenton have worked to attract and retain Millennials to the area through PopUps for a Purpose and Inside Access, 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.


Realize Bradenton, a local nonprofit, has successfully demonstrated citizen engagement initiatives with the City of Bradenton, including the Bradenton Riverwalk community planning process (2012), the Village of the Arts Tapestry (2013), PopUps for a Purpose (2015–2016), and Inside Access (2017). This grant affirms the ongoing partnership between Realize Bradenton, the Manatee Community Foundation, and the Knight Foundation.