Mechanical parking on Brickell raises eyebrows
Two proposed Miami residential towers won approvals last week, but officials expressed concerns about mechanical and robotic parking systems expected to handle hundreds of cars a day.
Potential perils of parking were on the minds of the city’s Urban Development Review Board when it debated the merits of large mechanical lifts and computer-assisted robotic transports.
One project is Edge, a 55-story, 631-foot, 130-unit tower on a third of an acre at 55 SW Miami Avenue Road developed by Edge on Brickell LLC and owner Rafael Aragonés. The other is Echo Brickell, a 57-story, 635-foot, 180-unit tower at 1451 Brickell Ave. developed by New York-based Property Markets Group.
Edge also plans a restaurant, which affects parking needs. Echo Brickell includes two ground-level retail sites totaling 2,800 square feet.
While praising appearance of the towers, board members questioned practical daily usage of the parking systems to maneuver a parade of cars.
Edge would have eight floors of parking, using two vehicle elevators. The board anticipated traffic backups getting cars in and out of a tight fit adjacent to the Miami Avenue Bridge on a site that’s only about 50 by 300 feet.
“I’m concerned about the parking issue,” said board member and architect Willy Bermello. How will the parking needs of tenants and diners be satisfied? he asked. “It’s very tight to get in and out of,” he said of the site.
They’ll have to rely on the mechanical system working, along with the “timing and patience of people,” he said.
Edge will have two mechanical lifts, Mr. Bermello said. When one is undergoing maintenance the entire building will have to “rely on one [lift]… It becomes your Achilles’ heel,” he told the developer.
At Echo, a robotic system is to handle cars via three loading bays.
A representative of the developer said the system studies when tenants typically come and go in order to park cars in a location that reduces turnaround time.
Board members questioned how a power outage would affect the system. Echo Brickell will be equipped with emergency backup generators, the board was told.
Board member and architect Dean Lewis said the parking system for Echo “looks problematic.”
On paper the system functions, but in use “I don’t think it will work,” said Board Chairman Robert Behar, an architect.
Echo Brickell is “architecturally phenomenal” Mr. Behar said later. “It’s a great-looking building on a small site.” But parking all those cars is “a fundamental problem a problem to be solved,” he said.
Mr. Bermello noted the novelty of the board reviewing two mechanical parking systems in one day, as developers try to squeeze as much as they can into small areas when the only direction they can go is up.
He equated it to trying to “put 10 pounds into a one-pound bag.”
The board, he speculated, will probably see more robotic parking systems as designers incorporate them into the towers of tomorrow.
Mr. Bermello moved to approve Echo Brickell’s plan with conditions set by planning staff. The robotic parking, he said, is “their issue to work out.”