Parking authority, Postal Service team up on garageBy Catherine Lackner
With a significant garage in the eastern part of Coconut Grove nearing completion, members of Miami's Off-Street Parking Board are negotiating to build a similar mixed-use building that will act as what they call an "interceptor" garage in the western Grove.
Officials of the US Postal Service flew from Washington to Miami Sept. 28 to discuss a partnership with the Miami Parking System to replace the aging Coconut Grove Station post office at 3191 Grand Ave.
The new building would include parking, a post office and retail stores. It would be jointly funded, though financial specifics haven't been worked out.
"We were very excited about their coming down here we're not in the middle of winter!" said Roamy Valera, the authority's deputy director.
The Postal Service, he said, is interested in "the prospects of some kind of partnership," adding that during the visit representatives of the two bodies signed a six-month extension to a memorandum of understanding.
"We'll have some definite answers in the next three months," Mr. Valera said.
With the exception of 70 parking spaces set aside for the post office, the Grand Avenue structure would be designed like the garage that is to open within one month at Oak and Mary streets.
"Basically, we're using the same figures for expenses we're currently experiencing at Oak and Mary," Mr. Valera said. He cited cost per parking space and cost for leasing the retail space as examples. "It's been helpful to be able to compare apples to apples."
"We're a few weeks away from parking cars," at the long-awaited Mary Street garage, said Art Noriega, parking authority director. "It took a while to put the site together."
He said the project has been in planning and construction for more than two years.
"We really spent a lot of time reviewing the plans with different organizations in the Grove to make sure it meets their needs. It was an extensive review process".
In addition to 416 parking spaces, the building has 16,000 square feet of retail space, all of which has been leased for $18 a square foot to Grove businessman Sandy Pukel.
According to terms of the lease, Mr. Pukel is free to sub-let 50% of the space, with the parking authority receiving a share of the net rent.
"We've heard that Mr. Pukel has been approached by a bank," Mr. Noriega said, adding that the parking department, which has right of first refusal, would consider a bank a fitting use for the retail space.
Mr. Pukel declined to comment, saying only that no deal has been signed yet.
Meanwhile, "the post office is the next step," Mr. Valera said.
The new West Grove garage "will be a great benefit to Commodore Plaza," he said, adding that the authority hopes the project will ease congestion and act as an economic catalyst for the retail area.
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