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City eyes paid parking to fund Circle garage

Progress on a St. Armands parking garage continues as stakeholders offer their support for various funding mechanisms — including parking meters.

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  • | 6:26 a.m. June 3, 2015
  • Longboat Key
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To get a parking garage on St. Armands Circle, leaders in the area are willing to pay up.

At a Sarasota City Commission meeting Monday, staff outlined two mechanisms it believes could help fund a garage project on North Adams Drive, both of which drew support from St. Armands stakeholders.

Staff is targeting the installation of paid parking and the creation of a special assessment district to pay for the garage, which comes with a preliminary $11.5 million cost estimate.

In April, commissioners offered a preliminary endorsement for a Circle garage, which they hoped would address an area parking deficit of about 320 spaces.

City Parking Manager Mark Lyons said staff will gather more information during the summer to help crystalize the logistics of a garage project. Although details are still preliminary, he suggested paid parking could be implemented both on the streets and in the garage, if it were OK’d.

“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. Finance Director John Lege said the statutory process to create a special assessment district would likely begin in January 2016.

Due to what Circle leaders perceive as the inevitability of paid parking, they were willing to accept that, too, to get the garage in place before the end of 2017.

“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.”

The unity of Circle landowners, merchants and residents is what convinced the commission the project was worth pursuing in April. This week, the groups once again presented a united message.

“Each group has agreed to make sacrifices to accomplish what is one of — if not the most — important goals for the Circle,” said Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association.

Although the St. Armands Residents Association has offered its support for the project, not everyone in the area is fully in favor. 

Resident Earl Scott worried paid parking could lead to more cars parked 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 pitched no-parking regulations or a park-by-permit system on residential streets in the area, a measure Lyons said staff would investigate. Staff will also get more information on another measure aimed at appeasing residents: placing utilities along the entryway to St. Armands underground. Lyons said preliminary cost estimates for that aspect are about $750,000.

As more specifics surrounding the garage project — and associated improvements in the area — continue to emerge, Lyons said it appeared the city, businesses and residents were largely in agreement.

“There seems to be a coalescing of ideas here to make it work,” Lyons said. “We’re excited to keep working.”

“The St. Armands stakeholders are in agreement that paid parking is not a question of if,
but when.”


— Marty Rappaport, St. Armands Business Improvement District board member



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