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Date of Issue: June 30, 2010

BB to explore purchase for parking

Bradenton Beach officials are reviewing opportunities in the downtown district for parking, including the potential purchase of property on First Street North. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

The Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency is collecting details about how much it would cost to purchase one or two First Street North properties and convert them into parking lots.

The CRA committee, meeting June 23 at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive, voted 4-2 to press forward with reviewing the potential property purchase using CRA money.

CRA members Janet Vosburgh, Gay Breuler, Bob Connors and Ed Chiles voted to move ahead with the project suggested by Chiles.

CRA members Bob Bartelt and Janie Robertson voted against Chiles’ motion, raising concerns about funding given that a portion of the Historic Bridge Street Pier will need replacing within the next five years.

Chiles first suggested the CRA consider purchasing the First Street property at a meeting earlier in June, then requested a special meeting to discuss the plan in detail.

Chiles said the city has the opportunity to purchase the property at 102 First St. N., which is owned by Scott and Tammy Barr, for $250,000. Chiles said another parcel is available for about $350,000.

The two properties might provide about 20 public parking spaces. Additionally, 102 First St. N. is just to the south of city hall, as well as across the street from another public parking lot.

“We’ve talked a long time about parking,” said Chiles. “It’s the No. 1 problem that we’ve got in the downtown core.… This group has prioritized parking as one of our objectives. And we’ve got an opportunity that I hope we’ll take advantage of.”

Chiles said the property was available at a “heck of a price” and that the parking lots could be established for a lot less than $100,000.

Vosburgh endorsed the proposal. “I don’t see how you could lose,” she said. “As long as this money is not going to put a burden on the city, it wouldn’t scare me one iota to do it.”

But Bartelt and Robertson questioned whether that much money should be spent for parking acquisition when the fishing section of the city pier will need replacing in the next 3-5 years.

Public works director Tom Woodard said concrete pilings and hand-railings on the pier “have been Band-Aided to the point where they can’t be Band-Aided anymore.”

The city currently is paying off a $1.2 million renovation of the pier that was funded with CRA dollars, but the entire pier was not replaced in the project.

Rent from the restaurant on the pier, about $8,000 a month, goes to the general fund for maintenance on the structure.

“To me it is a matter of priorities,” Bartelt said of future CRA spending.

Breuler responded, “I don’t think it’s a matter of one or the other.”

The meeting lasted for more than an hour, with the committee eventually deciding to investigate costs associated with both a pier project and a parking lot project.

The CRA tasked Woodard with looking into how much it would cost to replace a section of the pier.

Meanwhile, following the 4-2 vote to pursue more information on property acquisition, city clerk Nora Idso said she would check into financing packages and Chiles offered to collect cost estimates for demolishing structures, designing parking and putting down a shell mix and landscaping.

“Let’s move forward so that we’re prepared,” said Chiles.

The CRA district was established about 18 years ago to revitalize the area from Sarasota Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, and from Cortez Road to Fifth Street South.

The CRA became a mechanism to generate dedicated property tax dollars for projects that would bring people to Bridge Street, attract new business investment, promote historical and recreational programs and secure historic district status for the community, according to the 1992 plan.

Vosburgh said creating more public parking was crucial to achieving the CRA goal.

“The city and the business community have to work hand in hand,” she said.