A parking feasibility study could be the first step forward in the construction of a parking garage on St. Armands Circle.
During their regular meeting Monday, May 20, city commissioners heard from the St. Armands Special Business Improvement District (BID). The district agreed to fund the study up to $50,000, but the city would have to come up with the rest.
According to materials submitted to commissioners, the study would address “alternative methods in managing the shortage of parking spaces within the commercial district, which may include the feasibility of erecting a parking structure.”
Marty Rappaport, chairman of the BID, said parking is the single, biggest issue for the Circle. The district offered to fund the feasibility study because there is no available funding in the city’s current budget.
The city has not yet approved the concept of the parking feasibility study. The next step, Rappaport said, is for city officials to decide whether to conduct the study. The study would take a comprehensive look at the Circle’s existing parking situation and, in addition to a parking garage, would look at the possibility of a valet service.
The need for a parking structure was identified in the Circle’s master plan penned five years ago, Rappaport said.
At the time, the master plan pointed out a shortage of 750 to 1,000 parking spaces on the Circle, where parking for visitors is mostly limited to on-street parking. In prior discussions, two city-owned lots were pointed out as possible locations for a parking structure — one at the corner of Fillmore and Monroe drives, on the south end of the Circle; and the other on a parcel on North Adams Drive behind the Columbia Restaurant.
The biggest unknown for the construction of a parking garage is funding. One possible source would be contingent on an extension of the St. Armands BID taxing district.
On May 14, the St. Armands Circle BID announced its second effort to mail out ballots for a 10-year extension vote for the district.
In April, Rappaport announced the extension district failed to receive adequate landowner approval. Only 34 of the 65 landowners returned their ballots by the April 2 deadline. Landowners who return ballots must collectively own more than 50% of the assessed property value within the district for the extension to be approved.
The problem, Rappaport said, was not disapproval of the BID. Instead, nearly half of the landowners didn’t get to vote: 28 of the ballots came back to the Sarasota City Auditor and Clerk’s Office stamped “not deliverable as addressed, unable to forward.”
During the May 20 City Commission meeting, Mayor Shannon Snyder suggested a novel approach for ensuring that property owners receive the ballot.
“Can we use a prominent color — maybe hot pink?” Snyder asked.