BRADENTON -- Hoping to dispel what it calls the “myth” that downtown Bradenton is short on public parking, Realize Bradenton has begun circulating maps showcasing downtown’s three garages, five lots, and on-street spaces set aside for parking.
“We’re an information source,” said Johnette Isham, executive director of the nonprofit Realize Bradenton. “We see it as our responsibility to give our customers and clients information, and to dispel myths.”
Downtown Bradenton offers more than 2,000 public parking spaces -- about 1,200 of which are within 1.5 miles of its waterfront where the new Riverwalk is being constructed. Of those, 463 on-street spaces are free with one- or two-hour time limits.
While the rest are 25 cents every half-hour or hour during weekdays, they are free on weekends and evenings, when most of the city’s arts and leisure events take place. Isham and Kevin Webb, Realize Bradenton’s creative director, said many of those spaces -- especially those located within the city’s three parking garages -- go unused on weekends and evenings.
“Not only does the public not realize there is plenty of parking; the garages are empty on most weekends and evenings,” Webb said.
Realize Bradenton, which created the maps in conjunction with the Downtown Development Authority, has already printed 1,000 copies. It distributed many of the copies at Monday’s Riverwalk groundbreaking. Isham said her organization hopes to print at least another 3,000 copies and would welcome a donor’s support for the project. The map also is available in pdf form on Realize Bradenton’s website.
Isham said she first began to focus on the issue in response to calls from community members, who said lack of downtown parking is a reason why they don’t attend the weekly Bradenton Farmers’ Market every Saturday from October to May. But the misperception about parking has an even deeper impact and can interfere with efforts to recruit businesses downtown, said Bernie Croghan, a longtime Bradenton business leader.
“A company or employer wants to be assured there is enough parking out there,” said Croghan, owner of the three ComCenters in Manatee. “And shoppers need to be assured there is, too. This map that Realize Bradenton has put out is a great tool. Now we need to publicize it.”
Croghan said he also is informally floating another related effort: to have prospective jurors being screened for jury duty park in the Bernie Croghan suggested that potential jurors use the new city garage at Eighth Avenue West and 12th Street West instead of the county garage at 10th Street West and Manatee Avenue West.
He said such a “shift du jour from one garage to another would go a long way” toward supporting the restaurants and businesses that are located nearer to the county garage. Croghan also encouraged downtown business owners to avidly encourage their employees to make use of monthly parking permits for downtown’s five lots.
Realize Bradenton can be accessed at www.realizebradenton.com, and additional information on downtown parking is available at the Parking Downtown tab at www.cityofbradenton.com.