It took longer than expected to unveil the conceptual design of the new City Centre parking garage, but there was a lot to work out that was previously not disclosed.
The biggest change is that instead of building more stories to meet the 500 parking spaces goal, the design stretches horizontally the length of Third Avenue West from Old Main Street to 10th Street West. The eastern portion of the new garage, which has been designed to look like three different buildings, will occupy the space where the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce building is now located.
The city owns the land the Chamber building sits upon and the existing Chamber building will go away. Once construction ends sometime late this year, the Chamber will have a new space inside the garage building fronting 10th Street West, essentially where it is located now, but inside the new building.
Construction is expected to begin April 1 and the Chamber temporarily will move its operations to the Bank of the Ozarks building on Manatee Avenue.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have leased the second floor of that building, but according to Mayor Wayne Poston, the team rarely uses it and offered the space to the Chamber for free during construction. The Chamber is expected to sign a new long-term lease with the city to occupy the new building.
Poston said the new lease likely would be around $25,000 a year, and it’s the Chamber’s way of helping to pay the costs of construction while remaining committed to its downtown Bradenton presence.
Chamber President and CEO Jacki Dezelski said the Chamber was grateful to be involved in the conversation and “in a project that is reactivating downtown. We’ve been excited about the vision you all had downtown whether the space was included or not. The right step forward for the Chamber is to be a partner with you.”
The goal of the city was to make the space an iconic part of downtown. The elongated design keeps it at three stories with rooftop parking. Design elements will include rooftop observation points to view downtown.
The structure is expected to take up about half of the existing city hall parking lot on the southern side, so the city is looking at the possibility of using that space between the garage and city hall as a new open green space as a passive park and a place to hold events up to and including a possible movie night in the park.
The design intentionally looks nothing like a traditional parking garage and includes ground-floor retail components on the western edge of Third Avenue West, wrapping around the building that fronts Old Main Street. Early discussions had retail potentially all along Third Avenue West, something Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo said he was disappointed not to see.
“We have an opportunity to do it right now and invest in the future,” Gallo said. “Downtown needs more retail. If we don’t do it now then we’ve lost the opportunity in this building and it will cost millions of dollars later to catch back up.”
It was the only criticism of a design that otherwise awed officials and audience members alike.
“It’s an exciting day for us and a long time coming,” Economic Development Director Carl Callahan said. “The goal was to create the best possible garage in the downtown area, to make it functional but iconic and tying it together with downtown Bradenton.”
The design takes into account the transition of Old Main Street’s features and modernizes as the building ties into the more modern features of the South Florida Museum expansion. The potential park in between the garage and city hall also acts as an additional extension of walkability to and from Riverwalk.
With everything else that is happening in the urban core, this is a distinctive and iconic piece architecture that will pull the pieces of downtown together.
Realize Bradenton Executive Director Johnette Isham
“We have a block-long building, but it appears to be three different buildings,” Vice Mayor Patrick Roff said. “For a parking garage, this is a pretty darn nice building.”
The garage also will feature several public art opportunities. Realize Bradenton Executive Director Johnette Isham said the design elements almost brought her to tears.
“This is a game-changer,” she said. “With everything else that is happening in the urban core, this is a distinctive and iconic piece of architecture that will pull the pieces of downtown together.”
The council unanimously approved the architectural firm of Fawley Bryant to move forward with the final design. Costs remain unknown until those designs are finalized, but Callahan said he expects it to be in the $12 million window already estimated.
Callahan said the city will continue to work on the temporary loss of parking spaces during the eight-month construction schedule.