Thursday, September 01, 2005

Pineapple Square Questions

Save Our Sarasota has had conversations with John Simon, the project manager for the Pineapple Square project, city planning staff associated with this project, city commissioners and various community groups and individuals.

These conversations have led to a number of questions that we feel must be answered as this significant downtown proposal is considered. This change will alter the character of downtown for years to come. We must be sure this is the direction the community wants to go.

Over the next few days we will post our questions. We hope that these will be considered carefully.

Parking: An article by Mike Saewitz in the 8/24/05 Sarasota Herald-Tribune tells about a recent parking study showing a 17,781 parking space supply in downtown Sarasota, and reports that if all sections of downtown were to experience peak parking times at once 10,900 parking spaces would be taken. That leaves a surplus of almost 7,000 parking spaces. It appears the parking "problem" may not be real, only perceived as a result of the construction and infrastructure work currently being done all over the downtown area.

We understand that future parking needs may not be covered at this point in time, but until the Parking Master Plan is publicly discussed, how can we make major decisions without this critical step?

Will decisions on the State/Lemon lot be made in the context of a completed parking study and plan and will the withdrawal of the Plaza Verdi and Orange Dolphin sites from play allow for creative new parking strategies? And, as part of this larger strategizing, where does public transit enter the equation?

Mr. Simon has suggested that the Pineapple Square employees would not park in the Pineapple Square garage, but "somewhere else" downtown…wherever they could find a spot. Employee parking in the Pineapple Square garage would be controlled by not opening the lot until 10 AM, after employees had reported to work. Since many retail employees work only part time, and they would be coming to work at all hours of the day, would a 10 AM opening time really prevent employees from using parking garage. Is this acceptable to our service employees? Is this a viable strategy for our downtown parking, which undoubtedly should be based upon more concrete planning?

Value of City assets: What is the currently appraised value of the State Street lot? What is the current cost of a parking space in a parking garage?

If the city wants 350 parking places as the "price" for the State Street lot, is the deal that the developers would provide 350 public spaces in the Pineapple Square building in return for the State Street lot? Where does the 600 spaces number come from? Apparently if the city wants more than 350 spaces, the developers would provide them at $15K per space. Where does the $15K number come from? What evidence do we have that this is the construction cost?

Pineapple Square developers would provide three floors of air space to the city in return for the parking lot. What is the parking potential at State Street compared to the 350 spot proposal? What is the square footage of ten stories on the State Street potential parking lot vs. the square footage given in exchange by Pineapple Square?

Apparently the Isaacs Group needs parking for other downtown building projects, suggesting they would create parking at the State Street site that would be private and reserved for their residential units. This seems to indicate that this site is suitable for parking, even though Mr. Simon argues it is "inefficient". Is it really inefficient in that it is larger than the Orange Dolphin lot the city was considering purchasing a month ago?
How much public parking on the streets would be lost due to this project? What would be the net gain in spaces?

Is this the best site for added downtown parking, especially 350 to 600 spaces?

What is the value of the street vacation? What would the city get in return for vacating the State Street block? How wide would the "breezeway" be? Would it be the same as the current street width? If not, why not? Who would maintain this space? How would the loss of this street segment affect traffic circulation? What is the value of the air rights above this street?

Why is the church parking lot leased and not purchased? Why should the city give outright title to its land and only get a lease on the space it gets in return?

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