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Guest Op/Ed: Island Parking


During the COVID shut downs, I participated actively on the website NextDoor. I viewed it as a social setting where neighbors and friends could still gather. Many of us still meet online. We recommend restaurants, stores, and local handymen. We warn about coyote sightings. One topic frequently arises: the tourists visiting our beaches and all the traffic challenges they bring.

I was born and raised here, having enjoyed our soft, white sandy beaches and our warm, clear blue water - like no other beach in the world. And I've visited quite a few: the Mediterranean, the South China Sea, the Pacific... Our local beaches offer a luxury that really doesn't exist anywhere else. Not even around Florida.

When I read NextDoor neighbors complaining about all the tourists, I tend to chastise them mildly. I write: Aren't "we" the problem? Haven't "we" made Anna Maria & Bradenton Beach just so darn charming? And then we go and post photos of its fun & beauty online for everyone to see? Why are you so surprised our local islands have become a #1 tourist destination?

Without exaggeration, 100% of those participating on NextDoor HATE the proposed government traffic solution of building a single large parking garage on the island. They believe it will be ugly.

I tend to agree.

I may have mentioned this before, but I've worked for the world's largest architecture, builder/development, design, film & media companies. I also taught at Parsons School of Design, considered one of the world's finest architecture/environmental design schools.

If I may suggest an image of what I believe everyone is imagining this parking garage will look like, it could be this:

I think everyone will agree that building something like this out on our beaches would be a truly ugly thing.

Something that could destroy forever all the charm, the human scale, the nature, and the appeal of our islands that have taken generations of families to create. I don't think even ol' Salty Sol Fleischman could have imagined what his Anna Maria neighborhood would one day become.

Something as big & ugly as what's depicted in this illustration may even wreck the local real estate market, putting many people, both homeowners and realtors, at financial risk.

Before something like this actually gets built, perhaps we should take a step back and try to imagine an alternative solution. Let's first consider the challenges of building a single tall parking garage anywhere on the island.

One initial challenge I see right away is how this island stretches far, from the tip of Anna Maria to Coquina. It is a long island. To build a single parking garage anywhere on this island would really only cater to a very tiny area, as I illustrate with the following maps:

With "X" marking the spot where a single tall garage building might be built, and the circle around each "X" being the only area that will be positively affected by such a structure. In sum: A single parking garage, no matter how big & tall, will only aid a very small area. It will not positively affect the rest of the island.

Building a single, tall parking garage is not the solution. It will very likely be a very ugly design that will adversely affect the local area - especially the real estate market. It will not solve the parking challenges for most of the island. Possibly, 95% of the island will not receive any benefit whatsoever.

What if, instead, an alternative parking solution was considered, such as:

Why not acquire several small properties located throughout the island, and 'not' build a single tall huge structure, but erect a few small 2-3 story charmingly designed parking garages 'peppered' around the island? Design these much smaller parking garages so that their facades and exteriors 'blend in' with the immediate local architecture, with each being different from the other.

Perhaps the following images of already existing uniquely designed smaller parking garages may convey what I mean:

By building 'mini' garages that will be located in various locations through out the island this will provide more parking spaces in more areas that will be closer to more public beaches. The following map with various "X" locations suggests how this might take place:

Much more so than building one single, possibly very ugly, tall building.

This idea can be taken even further - by doing something that would place our local area even more on the map in an extremely positive way.

Each smaller parking garage could monitor how many cars are parked inside and how many remaining spaces are available. This information could be made available on an APP that everyone can download. Visitors searching for a public parking space near their favorite beach could immediately see, on this APP, which mini parking garage they could drive to and, at present, find a vacant space. With a sufficiently sophisticated APP, the vacant space could even be reserved.

A convenient, easy solution for our island parking - all in a nice handheld design.

What I am offering is just one alternative idea, to a proposal presently being forwarded by our local government that has, as far as I can observe, zero support from the local community because of its potential ugly and destructive presence.

Perhaps a workshop can take place where other alternative solutions can be imagined. From my experience, urban and neighborhood design results from years of real training and extensive planning. Imagine, for example, someone performing surgery on your young child. Someone who has never been to medical school. Someone who has zero experience as a doctor or a surgeon. Imagine hiring someone to make out your will - and they've never been to law school. Your child would die. You could lose everything you've ever owned. That is often the result of what is called "plop architecture." People with zero training in urban or architectural design "plopping" buildings down any old place, making big decisions about placing big buildings anywhere they choose, without a true understanding of design.

Whatever is finally built, it will be there forever. Leaving a lasting impression upon those who will be forced to live with it. Including their disappointment if not their eternal resentment towards the individual and government body that "plopped" it down next to them.

So, in sum, will the island parking solution be a good one that everyone likes? A solution that really works? Or not.

Hans Carl Clausen is a Bradenton native. A self-described "child of the '60s," he attended Jessie P Miller and Manatee High School before heading off to the University of Florida and then forming Architecte Miniatura, a concierge design & media studio.


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  • lib224

    The parking is not the real problem. It's the lack of adequate access going to and from the island. Holmes Beach has already documented adequate parking. On the average beach day, traffic backs up for 5 miles and more into Bradenton. A wider, separated, and safe bike lane and better bus service will do more to solve access than anything else. I do agree that more beach access points with restrooms would also help.

    Sunday, January 14 Report this

  • Lrogge52

    While I agree traffic on the causeway is a nightmare especially during spring season, parking at the beach just off the causeway is a big problem as well. We haven’t had a huge problem parking on other areas but our destinations have been limited. One of those parking garages pictures posted would be wonderful there, but I understand the concern about losing the island charm.

    Sunday, January 14 Report this

  • Dave

    Mr. Clausen’s proposal, while well intentioned, should be a non-starter for a number of reasons:


    The folks that live on the island really don’t want “a few small 2-3 story” parking garages however “charmingly designed” next to them. Isn’t that what Manatee County commissioners and Rep. Will Robinson are trying to shove down the island’s throat at the current parking lot at the foot of Manatee Avenue? So a couple more 2 or 3 story garages make it better for the folks that live there? (By the way, to my mind, the example pictures show structures that belong in Miami, not Manatee County – quintessential “plop architecture.”)

    “If you build it they will come”

    Unfortunately for island residents, the old Field of Dreams line is true. More roads give you more cars. More cars bring more people. Where are they going to go? – There’s only so much beach.

    It should be noted that Mr. Clauson’s rendering of a skyscraper garage is a bit disingenuous. No one is proposing that sort of thing, to use it as a realistic example of what to avoid is gaslighting.

    Manatee County and the island’s problem is a government that pays no attention to people’s wishes. They’ve decided that development is a given.

    Mr. Clauson with his back ground, comes at the island with a developer’s point of view – change is inevitable but we’ll make it as painless as we can. He assumes something will be built and counsels to leave it to the “experts.”

    Manatee County’s and the island’s problem is a government that pays no attention to people’s wishes. How about letting people on the island set the rules for how they will live without dictats from outsiders?

    Sunday, January 14 Report this

  • klmsinc

    There is really nothing left for me to say! Mr. Clausen has been very diplomatic and has stated his case well and has the where with all to speak. The others above have also stated their case very concisely.

    I on the other hand do lot live on the island but on the other side of the County and I will state my reason for being able to share my viewpoint.

    In the 50 years I have lived in Myakka City, we have been told to attend meetings, etc., for our voice to be heard. Somewhere in the 90's it was stated that we should incorporate in order to have a voice in our preservation of being agricultural and of our lifestyle and culture.

    Now that I see Holmes Beach and Mayor Titsworth, incorporated, quite populated, well established, and not lacking influence in the same predicament that Myakka City is in and I see that the issue is not any of the above stated but an abuse of power and a group of Authority that really doesn't care what the populous of that area wants!

    By the way the war cry of "the good for the many" isn't cutting it. If you want the good for the many then let the voters vote for all the Commissioners and not just for their district!

    PS. A State law for a parking garage?, has no business in this County.

    Tuesday, January 16 Report this

  • NancyLoizeaux

    Thank you Mr. Clausen for illustrating many ways that the county could still NOT listen to the residents of Anna Maria by proposing more parking "solutions".

    Thank you to the commenters on this article that repeat what many residents and property owners have been saying for a long time.

    We don't have a parking problem. We have a traffic problem. Two narrow bridges to the island cannot support more traffic.

    We have a PROBLEM with the elected officials, county and state representatives, that ignore their constituents.

    Wednesday, January 17 Report this

  • kmskepton

    If only common sense and thoughtfulness were on the minds of commissioners. Alas, they are not; therefore great suggestions such as this will be ignored.

    Saturday, January 20 Report this