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Date of Issue: February 15, 2007

Park-and-ride at Coquina among solutions suggested for parking 'fix'

Solutions to a longstanding parking problem are slowly reaching fruition in Bradenton Beach.

A group of residents, business people and others have been meeting to discuss the parking needs of the city. The focus of the talks is slowly settling on the needs of the historic old-town area of the city, from Cortez Road south to Fifth Street South - the central business core.

Facilitator Alan Garrett estimated the area has about 77 parking spaces on Bridge Street and nearby areas, including a city parking lot and spaces adjacent to the city pier.

That number is in contrast to thousands of available spots at Coquina Beach and Cortez Beach - spots that are available but inconvenient for a casual shopper or diner at the area's restaurants.

"It's like a desert island," Garrett said. "You're surrounded by water, but you can't drink it. You've got thousands of parking spaces at Coquina, but how do you use it?"

The solutions the group suggested included some plans that have long been in the discussion stage.

Better signage along Bridge Street to stress that parking there is for businesses, not beachgoers, received accolades from the group as a quick, relatively painless "fix."

Creation of an employee parking lot at northeast Coquina was another suggestion, with a regular service to shuttle workers to their place of employment.

Longer-term solutions include purchase of property through a public-private collaboration that would result in a parking structure.

BeachHouse Restaurant owner Ed Chiles suggested that property he owns just to the south of the establishment could be used for a parking lot. He has had preliminary plans drafted for such a facility, which could probably accommodate more than 40 cars.

However, who would use the lot would need to be worked out with the city - would it serve only restaurant patrons or employees, other business patrons, visitors or residents? Chiles said that could be resolved with the city prior to any development commencing.

There was also a concern raised about allowing beachfront parking at that location opening a "Pandora's Box" of parking requests on beachfront land throughout the city.

Developer David Teitelbaum suggested the group work toward establishing a goal of providing 200 parking spaces in the Bridge Street area, which would entail finding another 150-or-so slots for vehicles.

Maximizing all existing areas should be strongly pursued, he added.

Garrett suggested the group consider the suggestions proffered in previous meetings and attempt to winnow them down at the next meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 21 at city hall.

Among those suggestions will be the park-and-ride lot at north Coquina, he added.

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