Between existing private lots and vacant properties, entrepreneurs see an opportunity to cash in on Siesta Key’s parking shortage.
When Mark Smith heard about a proposal to turn a residential property on Beach Road into a parking lot, he didn’t think it made much sense.
Smith, an architect and chairman of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, said a house on Beach Road could sell for more than a million dollars. Parking is in short supply on the Key, but he didn’t see the cost-benefit analysis working out for a parcel between Siesta Key Village and the beach.
“I can’t imagine the highest and best use of the property — essentially across the street from the beach — being a parking lot,” Smith said.
But on March 30, an applicant filed documents with the county seeking approval for a 35-space parking lot at 459 Beach Road. Real estate company Casto is listed as the property owner, and architect John Cavoli of Cavoli Engineering is listed as the representative for the project.
There’s not a lot of other public information available regarding the project. Casto and Cavoli did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
With not much to go on — and still skeptical about the idea — Smith began to walk through the math behind the concept. If the owner charged $5 per hour, and filled the lot 12 hours per day, that’d work out to … $766,500 per year.
“That’s interesting,” he said. “That’s not bad. That’s actually pretty good. Maybe it makes some sense.”
These are back-of-the-napkin calculations based on the lot filled to capacity 365 days per year, but it’s enough for Smith to reverse his stance on the viability of the proposal. It illustrates the demand for more parking on Siesta Key — and a potential burgeoning private-parking industry in the area.
The same applicant is seeking county approval to build another parking lot on the island. The second project, located within the Village at 5160 Calle Minorga, would include 35 spaces on a 10,000-square-foot parcel. The land was previously the site of a proposed mini-golf course.
Nearby, a prominent property owner began contracting with a parking company to create his own paid-parking system. Davidson Plaza, located along Ocean Boulevard in the Village, charges visitors $4 an hour to use the lot if they’re not patronizing one of the tenants on the property.
FL Parking Co., based out of Madeira Beach, is managing the lot. So far, the company says the venture into Siesta Key private paid parking has been successful.
“It’s providing opportunity for folks to find a parking space, enjoy the Key, do the things they want,” said Dan McNutt of FL Parking Co. “Previously, they may have had to circle around, park illegally on the street and face other numbers of challenges.”
McNutt said he helps manage more than 200 properties in eight states. After beginning charging at Davidson’s in February, the company’s already picked up another client in the Crescent Beach Grocery Store. He said there are several other properties that are planning to work with FL Parking Co., and he sees the situation as one in which all parties come out ahead.
“Historically, properties like that sit off-limit to the public,” McNutt said. “People, obviously, don’t feel comfortable using that space — they know they’re not allowed. We’re able to bring in an effective management solution.”
Charging for parking after-hours in existing parking lots is one thing. But is parking really such a valuable commodity that a property owner could forego development and just build a parking private lot instead? McNutt thinks so.
“There’s just so much traffic,” he said. “Any parking you can create on Siesta Key — the demand is there, and it will certainly sell.”
“Any parking you can create on Siesta Key — the demand is there, and it will certainly sell.” — Dan McNutt
Still, there’s no guarantee the property at 459 Beach Road will end up as a parking lot. The land is zoned for residential multifamily development. The applicant is scheduled to appear before the county Development Review Committee on Thursday, at which point county staff will explain the steps the developer needs to take before it could build the project.
There was briefly paid parking on the property last month. On March 30, residents noticed a parking meter in front of the home on the site. The county received complaints about the meter, and issued a code-violation notice, because the commercial activity was not allowed on the residential property.
It’s unclear whether residential property owners in the area would object to the proposed commercial use. Catherine Luckner, a Siesta Key Association board member, speculated that neighboring landlords would be concerned. Bogdan Osipov, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Siesta Key, said he could not think of a similar proposal for a residential area.
Even if it’s unconventional for Siesta Key, Smith believes private investment in parking lots could be beneficial for the island. He suggested businesses could partner with private parking lots to satisfy county parking requirements without sacrificing space on-site.
In its simplest form, Smith said, the private parking agreements were an example of increasing supply to satisfy demand. He thinks everyone can come out ahead.
“The visitors have a place to park — they don’t mind spending 10, 15 dollars, knowing they have a space,” Smith said. “The property owner makes the money. Those companies make their money, which is the capitalist thing to do. I think it’s a great idea.”