On Monday, Apr 3, the City Commission/CRA will discuss what to do with the Palm Ave lot. Consideration will be given to an RFP that will include 400 new parking spaces.
Save Our Sarasota has indicated in the past, and we continue to advocate, that some level of affordable housing should be included in this project.
While the land may be considered expensive, recent history has shown that the commissioners have been more than willing to bend over backwards to accomplish an objective - consider the recent gift of the $11,000,000 parking lot on State St to get 30+ retail shops.
Since affordable/attainable housing continues to be high on the city's "must do" list of objectives, what would keep us from using a significant portion of the Palm Ave. site to help achieve affordable housing goals?
Concerning parking, we question whether 400 parking places is the best number for this spot. We realize that that the city parking consultant indicated that the net result of the Pineapple Square project will be to increase the demand for parking by a little more than 100 spaces - even after all the 1000+ new parking spaces are functional, the reason being that the added retail activity and work force will create the need for 1100+ parking spaces. Given that we have created a shortfall, we obviously need more spaces.
The real question is where should these spaces be located. We believe that smaller lots, located at more places spread around downtown is a better solution. This would allow more people to park closer to their intended destination as well as spread traffic over more streets. Having 500+ public parking spaces at Pineapple Square and another 400 at Palm Ave., just 2-3 blocks away is a very high concentration in this part of downtown. This is especially true when considering the public parking at Whole Foods. This will draw even more cars to this small section of downtown creating more car/pedestrian interaction potential.
Other areas of downtown need public parking. The Burns Square area needs some level of added public parking, upper Main needs public parking at several places.
Reducing parking at Palm (maybe to 200 spaces) would also leave more room for affordable housing. Creating a lively downtown requires having people live there year round. Affordable housing, sold to people intending to live there will help achieve the goal of a lively downtown.
We hope the commissioners take these factors into consideration as they choose among the alternatives.