The Manatee County government plans to pay tens of millions of dollars to replace its parking lot in downtown Bradenton after an engineering report found “signs of deterioration”.
The garage is still a safe place to park, officials say, but replacing it as soon as possible has become a priority. The county’s recently released capital improvement plan includes $33 million to replace the garage, which is attached to the administration building at 1112 Manatee Ave. W.
“It’s not in imminent danger. If it was an immediate danger, I wouldn’t leave parking there,” County Administrator Scott Hopes said Friday. “We take all necessary measures to ensure that our employees work and park in a safe environment.”
Construction of the six-story garage was completed in the late 1980s. According to the project description, a professional inspection report found that age and “continuous water intrusion” caused significant damage to structure.
In a Friday afternoon interview with the Bradenton Herald, Hopes said he had sought a second opinion on the parking lot, but details of that inspection have not been finalized.
While the initial report determined that the “massive areas” would require $8 million in repairs over the next two years, the county’s property management department recommended replacing the garage entirely because the repairs would only add five to ten years of life in the garage.
“We continue to uncover examples of mismanagement and poor governance from years past. Neglecting this structure could have resulted in a catastrophic event had it not been caught by our new administration,” Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge wrote in a text message to the Bradenton Herald.
“Fortunately, this was avoided. Unfortunately, it looks like it will needlessly cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars,” he continued, expressing frustration at the unexpected expense. “The money we now have to divert to new parking could have been invested in new roads or new parks.”
County officials plan to demolish the existing garage to build a “larger and more efficient” parking lot for county employees and the general public, according to the project description.
If approved as part of the budget later this summer, county officials will immediately begin the process of designing a new parking lot. According to the capital improvement plan, construction could begin next fall and be completed by the end of 2025.
More than 500 county employees work daily in the Manatee County Administration Building. The building serves as the seat of government and houses a number of customer service areas for county residents.
A separate inspection report found no significant issues with the administration building itself, which is due to receive a roof replacement later this year.
During construction, it is unknown where these employees or visitors will be able to park downtown. There are other parking structures downtown, but these are smaller garages with other primary uses.
Speaking to the Bradenton Herald on Friday afternoon, Mayor Gene Brown said he expects the upcoming demolition and construction will cause headaches for downtown, but the city plans to work with the county to minimize problems.
“Obviously there will be challenges during construction,” Brown said. “Anything we as a city can do to help the process, we will. (County officials) are working on logistics, but hopefully we can make the transition as easy as possible. »
Hopes said the county would also consider running a shuttle between the administration building and county-owned parking lots, such as the site of Old City Hall at the southwest corner of West 15th Street and the West Manatee Ave.
The County Board of Commissioners will hold a series of budget meetings next week. The capital improvement plan, which includes money to build a new parking garage, will be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. at the administration building.
This story was originally published June 10, 2022 3:07 p.m.