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City Centre parking garage is now open. What comes next?

Saturday morning was meant to be a little more celebratory in nature with the official opening of the City Centre parking garage in conjunction with the Farmers Market in downtown Bradenton.

Heavy rains associated with Tropical Storm Nestor forced the cancellation of Saturday’s market, and city administrator Carl Callahan simply removed the barricades that had been blocking access to the garage’s top three floors for months around 8 a.m. in an unceremonious gesture to announce that the public now has access.

Callahan said there was never an official celebration planned, but the city perhaps may do something more celebratory when the retail spaces in the garage begin to open with new businesses.

“That was part of what today was going to be about with the Farmers Market is to create interest in those spots,” Callahan said, while noting that there is interest. “But the council will have to decide what they want to see go in those spaces.”

The first floor of the garage opened several weeks ago but has been limited to Spring Hill Suites parking, per the original development agreement that brought the $17 million hotel to downtown Bradenton.

The top three floors of parking have been closed due to the streetscaping project that has fallen well behind schedule due to concrete issues.

The garage was originally scheduled to open in March, but it will finally help to alleviate downtown parking woes, and business owners couldn’t be happier.

Although there is some nervous anxiety about the streetscaping project considering the length of time the first phase has taken.

“There is a lot of mixed bags of emotions on the street,” said Ken Holmes, managing partner for Tom’s Bad Ass Bar and Grill. “The question is to figure out the timetable. That’s the X-factor. The garage is not an income-based business that needs to be run and we are. The last time they did this around 2002, it was a nightmare.”

Holmes said nonetheless, it’s a relief to see the garage finally open and the end result of the streetscaping from city hall to the garage is generating some excitement of what is to come because, “Right now downtown is looking old and tired. We’re happy to see this happen because it’s a good project, but there is some anxiety.”

Due to the delayed timetable of the streetscaping project, the work will not take place between Third Avenue and Sixth Avenue as was originally scheduled. Callahan said instead, the work will begin between Sixth Avenue and Ninth Avenue as to not interfere with the Farmers Market and the downtown’s peak season.

Holmes said that timetable provides some relief in order to not interfere with the season’s foot traffic, but still, the project will impact the downtown businesses at some point.

“We’ve said all along and never pretended that there would not be construction impacts,” Callahan said.

Holmes said it’s a regular topic of conversation on Old Main Street, “But no one is dwelling on it because we all know it’s something we are going to deal with at some point. I’m glad they had those trial-and-error issues in front of city hall and not in front of our storefronts, so that is a silver lining.”

Callahan agrees and said the process should go much smoother from this point forward and that the city and its contractor would remain in constant communication with the downtown business owners.

Breaking News/Real Time Reporter Mark Young began his career in 1996 and has been with the Bradenton Herald since 2014. He has won more than a dozen awards over the years, including the coveted Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting from the Florida Press Club and for beat reporting from the Society for Professional Journalists to name a few. His reporting experience is as diverse as the communities he covers.
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