Construction of the new $12 million City Centre parking garage will kick off 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 crossing their fingers that the temporary hassles of finding a parking spot won't deter anyone from Bradenton's nightlife.
"It may be a shock to the northerners coming back this time of year," said Kyra Smith, a bartender at McCabe's Irish Pub on Old Main Street. "The locals have known for a long time this is coming, so I don't think anyone is worrying about it too much. 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 used to be the home of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, which has relocated to temporary offices until the garage is completed. The chamber then will move into space on the new building's east side.
The parking garage, which should be finished in about eight months, will have about 400 parking spaces, with 100 reserved for use by the Spring Hill Suites hotel under construction on the riverfront.
"It's a lot of spaces to lose for eight months," said Jake Stettnisch, a bartender at the Loaded Barrel. "I've been working downtown for a little over a year and, of course, I come down to drink all the time, so I have it all figured out. I don't know a lot of people who park down that way because they are afraid of getting towed, but I know it fills up on the weekends and especially for events."
Stettnisch said, if anything, he is concerned what that will do to the Main Street Live events. Only one remains this season, but picks back up again in October.
"But who knows, maybe it will help increase Uber business," he said. "It's just something you have to cross your fingers and hope for the best."
With more than 200 parking spaces being temporarily removed from downtown, the city still has more than 1,000 public spaces available, though many require a permit on weekdays.
According to Carl Callahan, economic development director, the public's best options during the week will be the Manatee County Administration parking garage, on 10th Street West north of Manatee Avenue West, which has 100 spaces, as well as the city's Judicial Center parking garage at 615 12th St. W., which has 200 spaces.
"You might see the administration garage get filled up for county commission meetings, but otherwise there is always quite a few spaces," Callahan said.
There are also a few dozen parking spaces across from Sage Biscuit on Manatee Avenue and 13th Street East.
"Only a few of those up next to the building are reserved, the rest is for public parking," Callahan said. "People get confused over there, but the spaces on the asphalt and the shell are all available. That lot is probably going to be the best and quickest for anyone looking to walk into downtown."
All public parking is free on the weekends, including in the garages. On-street parking is always free, but is typically limited to one or two hours during the weekdays. So most drivers probably won't be affected since the bulk of the city hall lot is used by city employees.
"The number of permits for this lot was relatively small," he said.
In coming months, in fact, finding a parking space in downtown may not be as difficult as just driving into the area.
The Florida Department of Transportation is expected to start work on a revamp of the intersection of Third Avenue West and Ninth Street West. Callahan said the city has not heard from FDOT regarding an exact start date.
"All we know is that it's been awarded," he said. "Typically if we haven't heard from them about a start date, it means it's not imminent, but you never know."
The $1.52 million project includes widening the walking trail over the Green Bridge, adding a dedicated southbound right-hand turn lane on Ninth Street West at Third Avenue, decreasing the lane and median sizes and repaving much of Ninth. The project allows the contractor to close Third Avenue for as much as 30 days within the 200-day construction schedule.
The good news on timing is that an FDOT pedestrian safety project along Eighth Avenue West from Ninth Street to 14th Street West has been delayed. Callahan said the project is likely "quite a ways off."
Also sure to slow traffic is that Manatee Avenue West near Third Street West will close for 30 days beginning May 1 as FDOT and CSX Railroad replace the railroad crossing. Sixth Avenue West will not be affected. Manatee Avenue West will reopen west of the railroad crossing.
Downtown under construction
- Under construction: $17 million Spring Hill Suites should be completed in November.
- Under construction: First phase of the $12 million South Florida Museum 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 eastern docks. Contractor delays have pushed the project back, but it is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
- Ready to begin: The City Centre parking garage, still estimated to be somewhere around $12 million, begins Monday with the demolition of the lot, the former chamber of commerce building and site preparation. It is about an eight-month long project and should be completed in December.
- Scheduled to begin: The $1.5 million Ninth Street West and Third Avenue intersection improvement could begin any day. FDOT has awarded the contract and a start date is expected to be announced in the very near future. It is a 200-day construction project.
- Scheduled to begin: 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.
- Unscheduled: The Eighth Avenue West pedestrian safety project from Ninth Street West to 14th Street West has not been scheduled. Still in the final design phase, construction timelines are unknown.
- Unscheduled: The downtown Bradenton streetscaping project is in the design phase. Final costs and a construction time line are unknown, but is expected to be done in phases, beginning with Old Main Street.
- Unscheduled: The eastern expansion of Riverwalk is in the early stages of conceptual design. Costs and construction dates are unknown at this time, but the project is moving forward.
- Completed: SUNZ Insurance has largely completed exterior renovations of their downtown corporate building.
- Unknown: Westminster Retirement Communities master planning of an extensive expansion of their downtown facilities is winding down. Westminster has not announced a start date or construction timeline.