Officials: Downtown shoppers won't miss demolished garage
By Risa Polansky
November's scheduled demolition of the downtown Courthouse Center Garage, and the almost two years of construction to follow, should not be detrimental to area parking, Miami Parking Authority officials say.
And the new garage to rise in its place, they say, will offer more spaces: 852 to the current 515.
The additional parking, as well as the retail and office components planned for the new facility, are all needed downtown, said Josie Correa, executive director of the Downtown Miami Partnership
But if Downtown Miami develops into a thriving retail hub as local leaders and stakeholders plan, the parking authority, as well as private operators, she said, are "going to have to step up to the plate to create more parking facilities."
Even now, merchants have "expressed concerns about the lack of enough customer parking," she said.
But parking authority Executive Director Arthur Noriega said the to-be-demolished garage, 40 NW Third St., "isn't heavily utilized from a retail standpoint" and serves mostly monthly renters rather than "transient" customers.
"The closing of that garage isn't going to have an impact," he said.
Between this fall's demolition and the expected summer 2009 opening of the new garage, patrons can park either in the authority's College Station Garage, 190 NE Third St., or in authority-operated lots between Northwest First Avenue and the Metrorail line stretching from Northwest First to Fifth streets.
Both the garage and the lots typically have about 600 vacant spots, said Fred Bredemeyer, the authority's deputy executive director for operations, and a to-be-determined "preferred rate" is to be offered to existing Courthouse Center Garage patrons.
The overflow facilities are "nowhere near capacity," Mr. Bredemeyer said. "We expect with the demolition of our garage that the lots will absorb a lot of the current parkers from that garage. I think it's a temporary inconvenience at most."
And despite the displacement, he said, "folks will understand it's to get a bigger, newer, nicer facility."
Nearby federal courthouse representatives did not respond to inquiries regarding how the demolition may affect employee parking.
Because Miami-Dade County manages its own garages, there is no way to track whether employees of the county courthouse, or those who work in the nearby Stephen P. Clark Center, choose to park in the to-be-demolished garage and no method to determine the demolition's impact on county employees, a spokesperson said.
A separate lot serves jurors.
The top floor of the new 11-story garage is to be home to the parking authority's offices, currently housed in the College Station Garage, said Rolando Tapanes, the authority's director of planning and development.
Office liner units on the second and third floors of the new facility will probably serve attorneys, he said, leaving15,000 square feet of top-floor office space with "no particular client in mind."
The authority envisions cafés or coffee shops to serve on-the-go area employees in the 4,043 square feet of ground-floor retail, he said.
The City of Miami requires the retail component, Mr. Tapanes said, and Ms. Correa agreed that ground floor retail works well in the central business district.
But despite the planned new garage, which will "be great in the end," she said, "there is a concern about not enough convenient and affordable parking."
Because of the parking authority's "reasonable" rates, it is the best agency to provide more parking, she said, as some privately operated garages charge "more than a local shopper wants to come and spend."
To expand downtown parking, authority officials are getting creative, exploring the idea of building a park-and-ride garage in Brickell as a joint venture on privately owned land, Mr. Noriega said.
Details are to come, he said, once a feasibility study on the now-confidential parcel is complete.