Let's give credit where credit is due.
At long last, it’s real — the long-awaited parking garage at St. Armands Circle.
Marty Rappaport, long-time property owner and the never-give-up, driving force for improvements and good on St. Armands Circle, remembers his first meeting nearly 30 years ago with fellow Circle property owners and merchants. The topic: parking.
It was always about parking, even then.
And the moaning in the room was the pervasive attitude at the time. The Circle’s lack of parking would never be solved, one longtime property owner lamented.
Rappaport remembers thinking then: “We’re going to solve this problem.”
“I saw St. Armands back then as a diamond in the rough,” Rappaport told us.
For the next 25 years, and joined in 2000 by Diana Corrigan, longtime executive director of the St. Armands Association, Rappaport and Corrigan did what those property owners and merchants thought never could be done.
With the opening Tuesday of the new parking garage on St. Armands Circle, and the unveiling of new parking meters, Rappaport and Corrigan, primarily, persevered in their efforts to eliminate the rough around the diamond.
The new parking garage — with its handsome design by architect Jonathan Parks — is the pinnacle of what they accomplished. That is soon to be followed with the construction of public restrooms — another long-sought amenity.
But no one should forget the other important improvements and features that came from Rappaport’s drive. He, the late Gil Waters and Lou Mettler, former owner of the Met, were three driving forces that brought about the ground-level parking lot behind the Met.
Rappaport and Corrigan were crucial to the formation and buy-in of 80 Circle property owners to create the St. Armands Business Improvement District. Seriously, how often do you hear of property owners voting to impose additional taxes on themselves?
But they will if it’s for the right cause. In this case, the extra tax not only funded efforts to market the Circle, it funded a major landscaping and lighting renovation and now the garage.
Rappaport and Corrigan have plenty of scars for the battles they fought across the bay in Sarasota City Hall. But through them all, while Corrigan was never shy about dogging city commissioners to do what was best for St. Armands Circle, Rappaport, no shrinking violet himself, avoided public criticisms of City Hall. “We knew we had to work in partnership with the city,” he said.
Oftentimes, when public projects like new parking garages or bridges are erected, plaques are affixed to the structures hailing mayors, city commissioners and city managers. If there is a plaque to be erected or the naming of the St. Armands Circle parking garage, it should carry the names only of two people: Marty Rappaport and Diana Corrigan.
They made it happen.
Two people whose passions and efforts improved the community they love. What a great, new asset for St. Armands Circle and the city of Sarasota.