Realty firms set to clash over Bank of America tower garage
By Risa Polansky
Developer Related Group is to sign a license agreement with the Miami Parking Authority for 410 parking spaces in the city-owned convention center parking garage downtown now predominately utilized by Bank of America tower occupants.
The deal has created tension between the development powerhouse and Blue Capital, which owns the tower and provides 615 spots to its tenants.
And when the city puts out to bid the garage and the land it and the office tower sit on, the companies could be vying for more than parking spaces — both may make offers on the property, representatives say.
Attorney Al Dotson, on behalf of Blue Capital, told parking authority board members at a meeting last week that allowing Related to use the garage as off-site parking for its proposed Loft 4 residential tower would be "extremely problematic for the existing users of the garage."
In an e-mail, he added that Blue Capital's office and retail tenants use not only the allotted 615 parking spaces but "further, tenants of the office tower have purchased additional monthly parking rights to accommodate their employees, adding to the current parking usage."
The garage has 1,352 spots, with 1,149 cars currently issued permits to park there, according to authority officials.
The agreement granting Loft 4 tenants access to 410 spaces at market rate once the project is completed — set for 2010 — is to be signed within the week, Related, parking authority and city officials say.
"We oversell all of our garages," said Arthur Noriega, authority executive director. Related's request is a "perfect shared use for a garage. That garage is way underutilized at night and on the weekends."
While the city owns the garage, the authority may allot spots without city approval so long as a potential tenant isn't requesting anything outside the parking authority's rights as manager, such as a lease extending beyond 2012, when the authority's management agreement is up, said Lori Billberry, Miami's director of public facilities.
In that case, the contract would require city commission approval.
After reviewing the proposed agreement between Related and the parking authority, she said city involvement is unlikely, barring last-minute contract changes by Related. Authority officials said the same.
The reason behind overselling the garage is that Loft 4 residents would use their cars during the day, leaving plenty of spaces for office tenants to park in during business hours, Mr. Noriega said.
"It never reaches peak," he said of the garage. "It's absolutely a good use for the space."
But parking authority board member Stephen Nostrand questioned why the authority would assume drivers would drive to work when the idea of urbanizing through projects such as Loft 4 suggests tenants would use public transportation or walk, leaving their cars in the garage.
The city allows a developer in the central business district to accommodate parking off-site if a project is within 600 feet of a rapid transit station.
Lofts 4 is planned for 151 SE First St., near First Street Station.
But Miami doesn't offer enough public transportation to negate the need to drive, Mr. Noriega said.
Also, said Oscar Rodriguez, Related's senior vice president of development, a project like Loft 4 — comprised of workforce housing units starting at $139,000 — is designed to draw people downtown, meaning tenants may still have jobs elsewhere and need to drive during the day, leaving the garage free for business-hours tenants.
Loft 4 residents would begin occupying the spots in fall 2010, when the project is to be completed, he said.
The project is to go before the city commission for approval before year's end and break ground within a year, Mr. Rodriguez said.
As part of its plan to sell the garage and the 1.43 acres it and the office tower sit on, the city plans to offer Blue Capital the first shot before bidding, Ms. Billberry said.
However, once the public bidding process begins, Mr. Rodriguez said, "Related could be a potential buyer of this garage as well."