City staff and the consulting firm behind a St. Armands parking study held a meeting this morning to get feedback from people in the area — something St. Armands residents were more than willing to provide.
Beginning eight months ago, the city began work on a parking feasibility study as part of an attempt to mitigate parking issues around St. Armands Circle. Kimley-Horn and Associates, the consulting group hired to complete the parking study, recently completed its first draft, and presented its findings to the community at a meeting today.
Mark Santos, the project manager with Kimley-Horn, said there were some non-structural methods the city could implement to ease the parking woes. Those solutions included adding signage directing drivers to two public lots on Adams Drive, which were sometimes under capacity even during peak weekend hours.
Most of the conversation, however, pertained to the potential construction of a parking structure at those two lots. The parking structures, up to four levels in height, could add between 200 and 500 additional spots to the area. At this stage in the process, Santos said, varying design and scale options were in play, and no particular site is favored.
St. Armands residents, well represented at the meeting, had a series of concerns regarding the possible construction of a parking structure. Since the targeted areas of construction face residential streets, they said any garage should attempt to blend in with its surroundings. Various residents said they were concerned about the building’s size, aesthetics and layout, as well as potential traffic, sound and noise issues created by a garage.
Residents said they felt the report, as it stands, was primarily concerned with the interest of businesses on St. Armands Circle, and wanted the study updated to reflect the input provided at today’s meeting.
“What I've seen presented today has sort of been slanted towards the Circle’s interest rather than the residents’ interest,” St. Armands resident Graeme Malloch said. “These structures are both in the neighborhoods; they're not in the Circle. I think it needs to be invisible as possible.”
Mark Lyons, the city’s parking manager, said the primary concern of any effort to add parking in the area was to protect the neighborhoods. Jay Sparr, the president of the St. Armands Residents Association, asked the city to hold another public meeting to present an updated parking study that better accounted for the desires of those living in the area.
“What I saw is not what I thought we deserved,” Sparr said.
For more reactions to the St. Armands parking study, pick up a copy of next week's issues of the Longboat Observer and Sarasota Observer.
Contact David Conway at [email protected].