From the CEO

Palmetto attracts business investment, revitalization to diversify tax base

By Sharon Hillstrom -

February 28, 2024

A series of decisions begins to pay off in the city of Palmetto, nestled between St. Petersburg and Bradenton.

Business Observer Editor’s Note: This is the first in an ongoing series of columns from Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Sharon Hillstrom.

Private and public sector investments continue to stimulate new momentum in Palmetto on the north side of the Manatee River. A new hotel and convention center expansion to the east, improvements at a marina to the west, transportation improvements and a newly announced mixed-use project along the riverfront are poised to revitalize the city’s riverfront and downtown.

Already a popular event venue, the renovation and expansion of the Bradenton Area Convention Center at U.S. 301 and Haben Boulevard will expand the facility’s meeting and banquet capacity, add two outdoor event spaces and connect the convention center to the new Palmetto Marriott. The eight-story hotel, scheduled to open this year, will include 252 rooms, a rooftop lounge, full-service spa, ballroom and outdoor special event flex space.

The long-awaited combination of an expanded convention center with a flag hotel will provide opportunities to host larger and more varied events. The expanded convention center is expected to generate an economic impact of $25 million annually, according to the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The city is improving the connection from the convention center property to the west, where Palmetto’s downtown commercial district is located. A fully functional traffic signal at U.S. 301 and 7th Street West will allow safe and easy access to and from the hotel and convention center.

Located westward along the riverfront is Safe Harbor Regatta Pointe marina. The city-owned property has been operated since 2019 under a multi-year lease with Safe Harbor Marinas. Safe Harbor took over day-to-day operation of the facility, including the marina and substantial upland commercial components of the property. With two full-service restaurants, fuel dock, ship’s store, member pool and many complimentary commercial tenants, Safe Harbor Regatta Pointe brings together upscale Florida casual amenities with breathtaking views of the Manatee River.

In January, the City of Palmetto agreed to sell property on Riverside Drive to Stadler Development Corp. for a development that will further activate the riverfront. In addition to apartments and two restaurants with spectacular water views, the project will include a community gathering space with outdoor plaza and bar, and accessible parking. According to Stadler’s presentation to the city, the company is also seeking to acquire additional parcels to revitalize 4th Street West, which connects the riverfront to 10th Avenue to the north.

Throughout Palmetto you can see evidence of investments by city, county, state, and federal funding sources, along with private investment. According to Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant, “Our City Commission and staff have worked hard to determine what projects are most appropriate for various locations. We listen to the diverse voices of city residents, respond to and incentivize market interest from private sector investors and developers and pursue grants from state and federal programs. Ultimately, we proceed with what is best for the city as a whole.”

The city’s efforts are helping to stimulate more business investment, which is key to creating a more robust tax base to fund necessary infrastructure and services, instead of relying so heavily on residential property taxes.

Positive change is coming to the City of Palmetto, and we’re glad to see it. We believe the city, its residents and private sector investors can maintain the charm of this riverfront gem while enhancing the city as a place where people want to live, work and play — now and for future generations.

AUTHOR Sharon Hillstrom Sharon Hillstrom is president and CEO of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. (BradentonAreaEDC.com). She may be contacted at info@bradentonareaedc.com or 941-803-9036.

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Lauren Kratsch

Lauren Kratsch

Senior Director Business Relations

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