Watch as demolition begins on the former downtown Manatee Chamber of Commerce building

Demolition begins on former Manatee Chamber of Commerce building

Wednesday morning, crews began tearing down the building that was home to the Manatee Chamber of Commerce since the 1960s.
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Wednesday morning, crews began tearing down the building that was home to the Manatee Chamber of Commerce since the 1960s.

The demolition process for former offices of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce began Wednesday morning as the lot where it was housed is being cleared for a new downtown parking garage.

Several people stood outside shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday to watch as crews tore down sections of the building beginning at around 8 a.m. Two large sections of the building were ripped out, exposing the bare interior, insulation and pipes. Chamber staff had previously moved out of the building and into a temporary space.

"It is an emotional morning but it’s also a really exciting morning as we imagine what the next chapter of space for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce is for our Bradenton operations right here in downtown," chamber president and CEO Jacki Dezelski said. "We’ve been here for a long time on this footprint. The good news is we’re coming right back to the same corner."

About 20 current and former board chairmen, members and staff stood nearby to watch the beginning of the demolition process, which could take about three days, Dezelski said. Several took pictures and video as they said their goodbyes to the building that has housed the chamber since the 1960s.

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Demolition began Wednesday morning on the former downtown site of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. Crews are making way for the new City Centre parking garage. Sara Nealeigh snealeigh@bradenton.com

About two weeks ago, Bradenton police SWAT used the empty building for training.

The Bradenton City Hall parking lot, which held hundreds of parking spaces, is the future site of the City Centre parking garage, a $12 million, 400-space project. The lot has been under construction and closed in behind a chain link fence for about two weeks while crews have worked.

The parking garage is expected to be completed in about seven months and 100 of its parking spaces will be reserved for the Spring Hill Suites hotel also currently under construction.

Until the new garage is ready, Carl Callahan, economic development director, previously told the Bradenton Herald 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.

The Manatee Chamber of Commerce has relocated to temporary offices until the garage is completed, then the chamber will move into space on the new building's east side.