The city has been working for more than six months on preliminary designs for the State Street garage, but city commissioners still need more information before deciding on a concept plan for the structure.
For the first time since discarding proposals from developers due to legal concerns last month, the commission revisited plans for commercial space at the garage at today's meeting. After discussing options first presented in June, commissioners asked for new designs from the city’s Urban Design Studio before any action is taken.
Commissioners Paul Caragiulo and Susan Chapman wanted to see designs featuring shallow-depth liner buildings that would allow for additional commercial space without necessarily building upward. Before the developers’ plans were discarded, city staff was recommending a plan that would have resulted in a 10-story garage.
The zoning code requires liner building at street level for the garage. Karin Murphy, the director of the Urban Design Studio, said hiding the garage’s façade with liner buildings would be optimal from a design perspective, and that residential units could be a good fit for liner space above ground level at the State Street garage.
Commissioner Suzanne Atwell, an advocate for allowing developers to build commercial space above the garage, asked Murphy if it were possible for the garage to fit in architecturally without the liner buildings.
“Liner, in the form-based code, is the preferable option, but we can mitigate the bulk and the mass through the architectural treatment and the vertical elements,” Murphy said.
Before the commission began its discussion, City Attorney Robert Fournier said there were three options for the garage’s design. The most basic plan — which Fournier said was the most expeditious and carried the least risk — would only provide a ground floor of commercial space in addition to the parking levels.
The other two plans would increase the mixed-use aspect of the garage, either by selling the air rights above the parking levels or by building a secondary pad site adjacent to the garage for commercial usage. City regulations prohibit the garage from being built any taller than 10 stories.
An agreement with Pineapple Square requires the city to build the State Street garage by February 2015, though Mayor Shannon Snyder said there would be no grounds for legal action if the city were a few months late in completing the construction process.
Fournier said the commissioners would have to take action in the near future regarding the garage’s design to attempt to meet that 2015 completion date. Still, he said it was OK that the commission is still weighing its options.
“At some point, a decision has to be made; I didn’t think that had to be today,” Fournier said. “You need to make an informed decision.”
Also at Monday’s City Commission meeting:
• During public comments, seven people spoke to encourage the city to lease a surface parking lot in Burns Square that was recently closed to the public. At the end of the afternoon session, Caragiulo and Atwell encouraged staff to explore the possibility of leasing the lot through the upcoming season while other parking options were considered. Chapman, who is against the city funding the lot, suggested businesses could pay $10 per employee to cover the majority of the expenses.
• Commissioners discussed their visits to Pinellas Safe Harbor, a homeless shelter in Pinellas County, which could serve as a model for a future homeless facility in Sarasota. Atwell, Chapman and Vice Mayor Willie Shaw expressed concerns about building such an expansive shelter, designed to serve the entire region, within the city itself.
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