A new downtown parking garage is becoming more likely as city officials consider requesting proposals to design and build the structure on the existing City Hall parking lot.
The structure is seen as a key component to address several needs. The city signed a development agreement with North Star Lodging to build a new hotel on the site of the old Manatee Players theater across from City Hall. As part of the agreement, the city has agreed to provide 100 parking spaces to the hotel, which could begin construction by the end of the year.
City officials also are considering future parking needs as the downtown area expands with several other projects. Among those project is the goal to refurbish Old Main Street, and the design of the garage is considered crucial to the street’s new look and flow.
“Several months ago, I commented on putting in retail and possibly even residential in the garage structure,” said Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo. “The valid point of that comment is the desire to extend Old Main Street, and this would extend it by hopefully getting new businesses and people to come in. I see it as a long-term investment for the city, and it’s a no-brainer.”
When discussions began several months ago, city officials were basing estimates on the $6 million cost of the city’s other downtown garage, which is based on years-old construction costs. City Administrator Carl Callahan said the city simply won’t know until officials narrow down design choices and the project goes out for an RFP.
I see it as a long-term investment into the city, and it’s a no-brainer.
Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo
Callahan has been researching other garages and is pushing for a design similar to Punta Gorda’s newest garage, which features about 17,000 square feet of retail space. Callahan likes the concept, but doubts Bradenton can duplicate it since the cost to build the structure was $11 million in 2009.
“It also appears to make parking inefficient,” said Callahan. “It’s a beautiful building, though, but very expensive.”
Callahan said the idea is to have retail space, specifically wrapped around the intersection of Third Avenue West and Old Main Street. That concept, officials believe, will have the expansion effect desired for Old Main Street by extending retail around the corner.
Callahan said city officials will need to begin serious discussions on the design details in order to prepare the RFP.
“We’ll certainly be discussing again, but we need specific information for a good RFP,” he said. “But it is coming.”