Bradenton farm owner wants to build urban-type development

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BRADENTON, FL. - The president of Manatee Fruit Company wants to turn 1,600 acres of farmland into a new urban-type development in west Bradenton.

Whiting Preston was born and raised in Manatee County. "I have a vested interested in this community."

Preston has farmed 1,600 acres west of IMG Academy and south of Cortez Road for 50 years. "This is probably the biggest piece of property on the west side of Bradenton, certainly west of I-75 in Manatee County."

The area is surrounded by development and Preston believes it will no longer be practical to farm in the future, so instead of selling it to developers, the Preston family is implementing their vision for the land. "What I have seen is a great opportunity for West Bradenton to really put a mixed use community that has live, play and work on the same site."

Preston has created a website called to share the vision with the public. He says the website contains two important studies that both concluded the empty farmland could be better served as a community asset and economic generator. "Those were two really important studies that have been done that really sort of our guideline for us in how we are going to move forward."

He has already sold off some of the land. Two years ago, IMG Academy purchased 110 acres of Preston's property to build ball fields. Preston says they have to deal with traffic issues that any new development has in the adjacent area. "Understand that a work, play, live environment really helps to offset that some of that traffic impact and the great opportunity here. It is not all about building homes, it is about building a community, it is about families being able to enjoy what is going on, and it is about jobs and opportunities."

Preston hopes will be a conduit of information to the public and a place where you can go and keep track of the developments progress.