In order to get a parking garage on St. Armands Circle and other associated improvements, leaders in the area are willing to put their money where their mouths are.
On Monday, Sarasota city staff outlined two funding mechanisms it believed could be essential for supporting a garage project on North Adams Drive. In April, the City Commission offered its preliminary endorsement for a garage on the Circle, which came on the heels of a third-party study and which they hoped would address a parking deficit of roughly 320 spaces in the area.
According to city Parking Manager Mark Lyons and Finance Director John Lege, the implementation of paid parking and the creation of a special assessment district on St. Armands could help pay for a garage, the cost of which has been estimated at $11.5 million.
After providing the update at Monday’s City Commission meeting, Lyons said staff will gather more information over the course of the summer to help crystalize the logistics of a garage project. Although the plans are still in preliminary phases, he suggested paid parking could be implemented both on the streets and in the garage, were it eventually approved.
“We're still trying to put together some good analysis and really understand it,” Lyons said.
Marty Rappaport, a board member of the St. Armands Business Improvement District, said property owners would be amenable to the special tax on property in the area, similar to the one approved in 1994 to install a surface parking lot on Fillmore Drive. Lege said the statutory process to create a special assessment district would likely begin in January 2016.
Due to what Circle leaders perceived as the creeping inevitability of paid parking, they were willing to accept that, too, to get the garage in place before the end of 2017.
"This project is of such importance that the St. Armands stakeholders have agreed to support paid parking on St. Armands."
“The St. Armands stakeholders are in agreement that paid parking is not a question of if, but when,” Rappaport said. “This project is of such importance that the St. Armands stakeholders have agreed to support paid parking on St. Armands, to be implemented upon the completion of this proposed capital improvement project.”
Although the St. Armands Residents Association has also offered its support for the project, not everybody living in the area is fully on board. Resident Earl Scott worried that, if paid parking were in place, more cars would park on residential streets.
“We're going to catch all the people who don't want to pay,” Scott said. “It'll be a number of them.”
Scott suggested implementing a park-by-permit system on residential streets in the area, a measure Lyons said staff would investigate. As more specifics surrounding the garage project — and associated improvements in the area — emerge, Lyons said it appeared the city, businesses and residents were largely on the same page.
“There seems to be a coalescing of ideas here to make it work,” Lyons said. “We're excited to keep working.”
For more information on the St. Armands parking garage project, pick up a copy of Thursday's Sarasota Observer.