- January 9, 2020
St. Armands Circle stakeholders could finally bring an end to a years-long quest to add public restrooms to the shopping district — but only if the St. Armands Business Improvement District is willing to foot the bill.
A potential project to construct two standalone restrooms along the Circle has made tangible progress since last fall. After reviewing potential models, St. Armands stakeholders have settled on a potential design for structures that would be placed in medians on John Ringling Boulevard and Boulevard of the Presidents.
Early estimates suggest building each restroom could cost more than $230,000. And so, although the BID continues to explore the possibility of funding the restroom projects, the group is also hopeful it can reduce the associated expenses.
On Tuesday, the BID discussed the funding challenges and other logistics surrounding the addition of restrooms to the Circle.
The group worked with Solstice Planning and Architecture to develop three concept plans for restroom structures. In February, the St. Armands Landlords, Merchants and Residents groups reviewed those designs, favoring the proposal with the smallest building footprint.
Solstice architect Jonathan Parks outlined the advantages of that design on Tuesday. In addition to people preferring the general aesthetics, Parks said the LMR group liked the minimal amount of space the structure occupied. That allows people to pass through the structure and provides for enhanced surveillance, minimizing the possibility of illicit activity.
“It really had the ability to, in its shaded areas, be very open — so there are eyeballs always on it,” Parks said.
BID Chairman Gavin Meshad pointed out the proposal was more expensive than some prefabricated options the group had considered. Those options were eventually discarded because the group hoped it could find a less costly alternative.
Parks said the estimates included costs associated with connecting the restrooms to the city utilities system and other site-related costs. Those expenses totaled $74,500, Parks said.
Solstice representatives also said the projections incorporated high-quality materials and amenities such as air conditioning, hoping to provide a durable final product. As the BID prepares to potentially put the project out to bid, board members suggested there could be opportunities to reduce costs.
“The restrooms are to alleviate a problem,” said BID Director Emeritus Marty Rappaport. “You’re going in to serve a purpose. You’re not going in for comfort.”
Beyond the costs, there are other details that must be clarified. The BID must obtain permission from the city to place the restrooms in the public right of way. And, if the City Commission approves, the city and BID must sort out who’s responsible for maintaining the property after it’s built.
The BID agreed the city should maintain the restrooms if they’re constructed. The city will already have to maintain a public restroom in the forthcoming St. Armands Circle parking garage, set for completion in December.
The project has to be put out to bid before a contractor is selected. Parks suggested there could be some efficiency achieved by using some of the same companies that will already be working on building the garage. If the BID ultimately agrees to pay for the restrooms, they hope to proceed swiftly to get the amenities on the Circle as quickly as possible.
“We’ve gotta move,” Rappaport said. “You know very well: You start something with the city, it’s going to be months and months and months. Before you know it, the garage is going to be done.”