Construction of the new $12 million downtown parking garage will begin on Monday with the closure of the Bradenton City Hall parking lot — and its hundreds of parking spaces.
Downtown workers seem to be taking it all in stride, but they’re keeping their fingers crossed that the temporary hassle of finding a parking space won’t deter anyone from Bradenton’s nightlife.
“It may come as a shock to northerners returning at this time of year,” said Kyra Smith, bartender at McCabe’s Irish Pub on Old Main Street. “Locals have known for a long time that this is happening, so I don’t think anyone is too worried about it. It’s a good project, so it’s just something we have to deal with for a while.”
Workers will begin demolishing the parking lot and what was once the home of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, which has moved into temporary offices until the garage is complete. The chamber will then move into the space on the east side of the new building.
The parking lot, which is expected to be completed in approximately eight months, will have approximately 400 parking spaces, including 100 reserved for use by the Spring Hill Suites hotel under construction on the riverfront.
“That’s a lot of space to waste for eight months,” said Loaded Barrel bartender Jake Stettnisch. “I’ve been working downtown for a little over a year and of course I go down to drink all the time so I figured it out. I don’t know a lot of people who park that way because they are afraid of being towed, but I know that it fills up on weekends and especially for events.”
Stettnisch said he was worried about what it would do to Main Street Live events. There is only one left this season, but it resumes in October.
“But who knows, maybe it will help grow Uber’s business,” he said. “It’s just something you have to keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best.”
With more than 200 parking spaces temporarily removed from downtown, the city still has more than 1,000 public spaces available, although many require a permit on weekdays.
According to Carl Callahan, Director of Economic Development, the public’s best options during the week will be the Manatee County Administration parking lot on West 10th Street north of Manatee Avenue West, which has 100 spaces, as well as the city’s Judicial Center parking lot at 615 12th St. W., which has 200 spaces.
“You might see the administration garage filling up for county commission meetings, but otherwise there’s always plenty of space,” Callahan said.
There are also a few dozen parking spaces in front of Sage Biscuit on Manatee Avenue and 13th Street East.
“Only a few of those next to the building are reserved, the rest are for public parking,” Callahan said. “People are confused there, but the spaces on the asphalt and the shell are all available. This pitch will probably be the best and fastest for anyone looking to walk downtown.”
All public car parks are free on weekends, including in garages. Street parking is always free, but is generally limited to one or two hours on weekdays. Thus, most motorists will likely not be affected since most of the City Hall grounds are used by city employees.
“The number of permits for this batch was relatively low,” he said.
In fact, in the coming months, finding a parking space downtown may not be as difficult as simply driving to the neighborhood.
The Florida Department of Transportation is expected to begin work on a redesign of the intersection of Third Avenue West and Ninth Street West. Callahan said the city hasn’t heard from FDOT about an exact start date.
“All we know is that he was rewarded,” he said. “Usually if we haven’t heard of a start date that means it’s not imminent, but you never know.”
The $1.52 million project includes widening the pedestrian path on the Green Bridge, adding a dedicated southbound right-turn lane on West Ninth Street to Third Avenue, reducing the size of the lanes and medians and the repaving of a large part of the ninth. The project allows the contractor to close Third Avenue for 30 days as part of the 200-day construction schedule.
The good news on the schedule is that an FDOT pedestrian safety project along West Eighth Avenue from Ninth Street to West 14th Street has been delayed. Callahan said the project is probably “far enough away”.
Manatee Avenue West, near Third Street West, is also certain to close for 30 days beginning May 1 as FDOT and CSX Railroad replace the crossing. West Sixth Avenue will not be affected. Manatee Avenue West will reopen west of the crossing.
Downtown under construction
- Under construction: $17 million Spring Hill Suites is expected to be completed in November.
- Under construction: The first phase of the Museum of South Florida’s $12 million expansion is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
- Under Construction: The $4.5 million Twin Dolphin Marina expansion is underway with the demolition of the docks to the east. Contractor delays have pushed the project back, but it is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
- Ready to begin: The downtown parking lot, still estimated at around $12 million, begins Monday with the demolition of the lot, the old chamber of commerce building and site preparation. This is an approximately eight month project and is expected to be completed in December.
- Expected start: The $1.5 million improvement at the intersection of West Ninth Street and Third Avenue could start any day. FDOT has awarded the contract and a start date is expected to be announced in the very near future. This is a 200 day construction project.
- Scheduled start: The FDOT and CSX Railroad crossing on Manatee Avenue West just west of Third Street West begins May 31. Access to downtown Bradenton on Manatee Avenue West will be blocked at the crossing for 30 days.
- Unplanned: The Eighth Avenue West pedestrian safety project from West Ninth Street to West 14th Street was unplanned. Still in the final design phase, construction deadlines are not known.
- Unscheduled: The downtown Bradenton streetscape project is in the design phase. Final costs and construction schedule are unknown, but are expected to be done in phases, beginning with Old Main Street.
- Unplanned: Riverwalk’s eastward expansion is in the early design stages. Costs and construction dates are not known at this time, but the project is progressing.
- Complete: SUNZ Insurance has substantially completed exterior renovations to its downtown corporate building.
- Unknown: Westminster Retirement Communities’ master plan for a major expansion of their city center facilities is coming to an end. Westminster has not announced a start date or construction schedule.
This story was originally published April 13, 2018 11:57 a.m.