MADEIRA BEACH — A group of investors who own beachfront property next to Kitty Stuart Park want to build a beach-style restaurant and bar, but to do it, they need to use the park's parking spaces.
The City Commission is cautiously considering a proposal made last week by local architect Jack Bodziak.
"It's a creative idea," said Commissioner Robin Vander Velde. "But I would want input from the residents."
Commissioner Terry Lister said he was apprehensive about the proposed project.
"I don't want it to become another Cadillac Jack's or Caddy's," Lister said.
Bodziak assured the commission that its not what the investor group proposes.
Lister did say, however, that he likes the location.
"The city hasn't had a restaurant on the beach in a long time," Lister said. "I like the idea of economic development in the middle of the city."
The identity of the proposed restaurant has not yet been selected, but it would be a Bahama Breeze-style restaurant offering casual beachfront dining.
Bodziak said the property owners, a Tampa-based group of doctors, bought the former motel site several years ago and originally intended to build condominiums.
That plan is no longer viable in the current economy, he said.
"A restaurant would be an additional attraction on the beach, add momentum to the city's recovery and make better use of the property," Bodziak said.
The now-vacant site is on Gulf Boulevard across from 141st Avenue and just north of Kitty Stuart Park.
The park has six parking spaces and a covered beach pavilion.
Bodziak told the commission that for the proposed restaurant to be viable, it needs more parking than the site allows.
He suggested that parking on the site could be combined with park spaces. The result would be more parking for the public visiting the small beach park and for restaurant patrons.
The restaurant itself would include ground-level parking and a second-floor deck of valet-assisted parking accessed by a vehicle elevator.
"It's a compromise that would benefit both sides," Bodziac said.
He assured commissioners that park access would not be impeded, and signs would clearly identify the city park to the public.
City Attorney Tom Trask suggested that any parking structure built over the park should be independent of the restaurant and connected by a walkway.
Any agreement, Trask said, should include deed restrictions that would cover each party, as well as "reverter language" that would protect city ownership and use of the park in the event the restaurant went out of business.
Commissioners made no commitment regarding the proposal but did ask Trask to research whether deed restrictions on the park would block the development.