Downtown Parking Lot Fetches 55m Tower Likely
Written by Eric Kalis on October 4, 2007
By Eric Kalis
Expensive property taxes and an annual City of Miami parking lot surcharge forced the Girtman family to unload a West Flagler Street parking lot the family owned for more than a century, a former co-owner of the property says. But the Girtmans have more than $5 million from the sale of the property to help them overcome any sense of loss.
The principal of property buyer Gutierrez Resnicks Properties LLC said Tuesday the property will continue to operate as a parking lot for courthouse patrons and Flagler Street shoppers for the near future but could eventually become the site of a mixed-use tower with a hotel.
The Girtman family last month sold the 17,000-square-foot parking lot at 54 W. Flagler St. across from the Miami-Dade County Courthouse for $5.5 million to local developers Armando Gutierrez and Andrew Resnick. Mr. Gutierrez said the partners intend to keep the property as a long-term investment and had an architect draft a site plan to determine the most viable uses.
"This is a landmark piece we would love to own for 100 years," Mr. Gutierrez said. "The plan was to buy the property and keep it forever. We have been approached by people who want to do a hotel there. For now we are in a year-to-year lease with [parking operator Mickey Meyers] and can break to build whenever we want."
A 45-story tower with up to 250,000 square feet and a 250-room hotel on top would be suitable for the property, Mr. Gutierrez said.
To former property co-owner Charlie Girtman, whose family had owned the lot since 1902, a commercial tower would make the site more profitable, he said. The property has operated as a parking lot for more than 47 years, Mr. Girtman said, used mainly by courthouse employees and visitors and shoppers.
"The city taxed us out of business," he said. "It’s not a big profit-maker [as a parking lot] anymore. Our property taxes went up $38,000 in one jump, and we had to pay a 15% [City of Miami parking lot] surcharge on top of it. It was time" to sell the property.
Completing the sale turned out to be cumbersome, as Mr. Girtman had to coordinate the transaction with three cousins in Texas who owned portions of the site, he said. "This was not an easy deal," Mr. Girtman said. "My cousins in Texas thought [the property] was worth $10 million. In the end this tax situation and the 15% surcharge was a tough thing to keep passing on."
Competition from Miami-Dade County-owned surface parking lots make it difficult for a private operator to stay in business downtown, Mr. Girtman said. Once Mr. Gutierrez and Mr. Resnick close the parking lot and begin developing the site, downtown will "not have any more flat parking," he said. "People don’t like garages — they think they will get mugged. People like to be able to drive onto Flagler Street and find surface parking."
The sale comes just as the Miami Park Authority begins to move ahead with the scheduled November demolition of the downtown Courthouse Center Garage, at 40 NW Third St. Almost two years of construction on a new garage is to follow. The new garage will have
852 spaces to the current 515.