Signs promising free public parking convenient to Burns Square are still standing near the lot at Orange Avenue and Laurel Street, but it’s a promise the city no longer stands behind.
An agreement between the city and the owner of the parking lot, Saunders Family Limited Partnership, which allowed for public parking in the lot, expired July 25. It’s a decision that’s taken some Burns Square business and property owners by surprise.
Cherylyn Van Kirk, a member of the Burns Court Neighborhood Association, was named the point person regarding parking in the area while the city debated whether to renew the agreement. Despite the fact that she has been taking the lead on the issue since the spring, she wasn’t made aware of the city’s decision until Aug. 2.
Van Kirk, owner of Starflower Essentials, 411 S. Pineapple Ave., criticized the city’s lack of communication with Burns Square stakeholders. She said that the decision to let the parking lot agreement expire “outraged” merchants because the parking lot, with 63 spaces, was essential for those working at and patronizing businesses in the area.
Beyond that, she said the city has been unclear as to what the next step will be to address parking needs in Burns Square.
“We don’t quite understand why Burns Court and Burns Square is being undervalued as a viable contingency for the city, why we’re being treated like this,” Van Kirk said.
The decision was made to let the parking license agreement with Saunders Family Limited Partnership expire after the City Commission did not direct staff to renew the contract, city Parking Director Mark Lyons said.
City commissioners discussed renewing the lease at a July 3 commission meeting. Commissioner Susan Chapman said the onus should be on businesses, not the city, to secure parking for private use.
Lyons said the city has communicated that directive to Burns Square business owners. He said it was still early in the process, and that there were hundreds of street spaces in the area to use while multiple avenues are explored.
“We certainly have encouraged them to form some other business group — similar to our Downtown Improvement District within downtown, or some other sort of mechanism — that would help them fund parking within their district,” Lyons said.
Denise Kowal, founder and chairwoman of the Sarasota Chalk Festival, is also the owner of a building in Burns Court that contains residential and commercial units. She said her building — mixed use, with frontage on Orange Avenue — represents something the city is seeking in creating a walkable city center. In exchange for preserving property of that nature, which frequently has little or no parking space, Kowal thinks the city should fill the parking gap.
“If they want people like me to maintain a historic structure, then they have to have the sustainable elements in place so that the area can continue to prosper,” Kowal said.
Kowal pointed to the Downtown Parking Master Plan from 2005, which listed a parking garage at Laurel Street and Orange Avenue as the No. 3 priority behind garages on Palm Avenue and State Street, as evidence that the city knows Burns Square is in need of parking beyond what’s available on the street. She said the city should stick to that plan, rather than leaving the fate of Burns Square parking in the hands of the commission.
“You can’t reinvent the wheel in a small committee, which is what they’re trying to do with this situation,” Kowal said. “They’re trying to design something different by committee, which is ridiculous; we already did this.”
Lyons, along with City Manager Tom Barwin, will meet with the Burns Square Neighborhood Association Sept. 5 to discuss the parking situation in the area.
Van Kirk said she was looking forward to finally discovering what the city had in mind for Burns Square businesses in need of parking. Kowal, on the other hand, expressed her dismay that a meeting was even necessary in the first place.
“I find it frustrating that we’re having a meeting about something that is 100% a no-brainer,” Kowal said.
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Currently 8 Responses
- The lot owned by Michael Saunders always had been open for the public to use until it needed repairs that were seen as a possible liability. They closed it to public use. The city rented it and repaired it. This is not new parking for the area, it always has been used for public parking.
- If the city government wants to support its downtown, it needs to provide public parking equitably. Making the shop and restaurant owners in Burns Square wait for adequate parking while money is spent on 'beautification' projects—such as the unnecessary changes to Main Street during the same 'recession'—is irresponsible in the face of the needs of taxpayers to have adequate public parking to reach all parts of downtown.
- Should not the Observer require posters to use their true name, for all we know (commenton observer, Gud Lookn) could all be Denise Kowal or her cronies posting....BTW I believe in new construction the city requires development to provide parking for their tenants. The City is building a $7mil parking garage for State stree, this is walking distance to Burns Court.
- Quite a few establishments in Burns Court provide their own parking for their customers & tenants & some are well maintained Historical buildings. Wemon's Exchange, St. Vincent De Paul, shopping on Dolphin St, Salon SRQ, Nancy's BBQ, US Garage, Sarasota Trading Company, William Parker Diets & Getzen Law firm, Bullet Hole, Micheal Saunders, there are others. Everyone has suffered from the reccession and eventually Burns Court will get a parking garage but it is not the city's responsibility to provide extra parking to land owners & landlords , nor is there any convenient in the city "Plans" for tax payers funds be used to rent an interim parking until the garage is built. It was very generous of the City to rent the parking lot during the construction of the round about, which is a wonderful addition to that district.
- The lot is not relevant to residents, the sign states "no overnight parking". So we are talking about the people who work, shop, attend movies, and go to restaurants in the Burns Square area. The city provides parking to encourage commerce in all other parts of downtown. Why would anyone expect these shops and restaurants to pay for providing a public parking lot? This is a convenience of the customers mostly -- even if you realize that without an all day public lot, workers would be taking up the very limited number of spaces on the street. It is the same problem as Main Street had before the parking garages were built by the city.
- The city took on the responsibility to provide civic parking through their adopted plans that stakeholders rely upon when making decisions on their investments in the city. Palm, State and BSQ were adopted to have parking facilities built by 2008 - yes, things take time and time is now up. The city had land banked on Palm and State and were providing surface parking prior to construction of a parking facility. The city had money to purchase the MS lot and approved the deal they would accept but buckled and bought land to entice the Red Sox to Sarasota instead, which failed. The Red Sox land is now a field of grass with a cow fence (of all things in our downtown core) protecting it. NO OTHER district or area downtown has ever been asked to 'chip in' for civic parking needs. Nobody on Palm contributed to the Palm Garage, Nobody on State is contributing to State, Marina Jack's did not pay for their parking, neither has anyone else paid for civic parking. The Rosemary district did not even pay to have Lemon Avenue reconfigured to provide parking this year. In fact, the DID is REMOVING civic parking spaces, not paying for more, to make room for customers on Main Street because they have civic parking garages in strategic locations that the CITY themselves provided and paid for. The preservation of historic structures used to be a high priority for the city and that is one of many reasons they had the intelligence to make civic parking a high priority when creating the Master Plan 2020 and its companion Parking Master Plan - and Wayfinding... I wish that was back on track too!
- That part of town was laid out in the 1920s when parking was not a problem. Most of it was residential with a tiny driveway and a single garage (if at all). In no other area of town are the business owners required to pay for the parking the city government provides to promote shopping and restaurant dining. Why should the retailers and restaurants in Burns Square be required to pay for public parking facilities when no others are? If the city government wants to support its downtown, it needs to provide public parking equitably.
- The City will build a parking garage there, like they did on Palm Ave. and soon to be on State Street. It takes time and there is nothing in the Master Plan that requires the city to rent parking until they can build a garage in Burns Square. Until that time the property owners should chip in and proactively share the cost of renting the spaces I am sure that Michael Suanders would be happy to comply. Those who have residential & commercial tenants should provide parking for them just like everyone else does downtown paying for the number of spaces you need for your tenants.
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