BRADENTON - A new Panera Bread cafe received unanimous approval by the Bradenton Planning Commission on Wednesday but must get one final nod from the city council on Oct. 10 before it becomes a reality.
Hamilton Williams, of Greenberg Farrow, a representative of Panera Bread, said, “Panera is absolutely excited to be a part of the community. We are already a part of Manatee County and are ready to join the city as well.”
Panera Bread has an existing location in the 1500 block of Cortez Road and announced in May that it had secured space in The Green shopping center in Lakewood Ranch.
The new location is 6351 Manatee Ave. W. in the Fountain Court shopping center where Bealls, Joey D’s Pizza, Subway and Planet Fitness already do business. The new store, if approved in October, would take the place of the existing IberiaBank building, which has stood vacant for a short while.
The property was purchased for $805,000 in January by PV Manatee LLC, which plans to lease the space to Panera Bread.
Wednesday’s public hearing was for a special use permit to allow a restaurant with more than 20 seats, a common request for areas zoned suburban commercial corridor. The city is currently reviewing its zoning requirements for areas that are prone to larger commercial developments.
The proposal is for 94 indoor seats and 36 outdoor patio seats and plans include a drive thru.
The IberiaBank building will be demolished to make way for a new 4,500 square foot cafe. IberiaBank announced in May that it would close or consolidate 22 branches this year as part of a long-term strategy to, “enhance the value of the franchise and improve operating efficiency,” according to the company’s website.
Commissioners had very few questions for the applicant and the proposed site plan. Commissioner Ben Bakker did ask if any agreements had been reached with Fountain Court owners in regards to shared parking and was assured those agreements were in place. Fountain Court owners also are currently resurfacing the entire lot.
As to the zoning issues and what commissioners and staff feel has become unnecessary public hearings, Planning and Community Development Director Catherine Hartley said her staff is currently “dissecting all of this. A lot have been zoned for no apparent reasons at all. Between the future land use map and the current zoning maps, I’m not sure why those decisions were made.”