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Sarasota Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009 8 years ago

Garage may offer free parking

by: Robin Roy City Editor

When city commissioners revisit the possibility of having paid parking downtown, they may also be deciding whether the city can charge anything for the parking spaces in the $11.5 million Palm Avenue parking garage.

In September, the commission rescinded its previous approval of downtown parking meters because of confusion about where the meters would be placed.

Commissioners voted for the creation of a series of parking workshops to gather information before it reconsiders paid parking next year.

But, if after the workshops they still choose to keep Main Street, Palm Avenue and other prime parking areas free of meters, the city may have to offer free parking in the garage as well.

The on-street parking spaces are premium spots, and the city would not profit from charging more for less-desirable parking spaces.

“People would be parking further from their destination,” said Susan Dodd, assistant city manager. “(In the garage) they can’t see their destination. People like to see where they’re going.”

Without on-street meters, the city would have dozens of options on how to treat the parking spots in the garage, according to Dodd, including offering free all-day parking on the roof of the garage, charging only for event or valet parking and providing free three-hour parking, because on-street spaces provide two hours for free.

Vice Mayor Kelly Kirschner worries that if the city can’t reap revenue from all 675 Palm Avenue parking garage spaces, it could further hurt the parking department’s budget.

“My concern is that it’s going to contribute to an already hemorrhaging parking department,” he said.

The department is on track to run out of its $1 million reserve fund at the end of 2010, and Dodd said if nothing changes, it could be running a $300,000 deficit by the end of 2011.

“We need some (parking garage) revenues if we don’t have paid parking,” she said.

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].

Estimated construction start: April 2010
Estimated construction end: December 2010
Parking spaces: 675
Estimated cost: $11.5 million

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