DUNEDIN — City officials are moving toward buying a .77-acre parcel downtown for a new parking garage, but they emphasized it's far from being a done deal.
The acquisition of the parcel at the corner of Douglas Avenue and Scotland Street, at $4 million, would be financed through the city's Community Redevelopment Agency at $420,000 annually for about 11 years.
"I certainly want to stress and emphasize there is a tremendous amount of due diligence that needs to be done," said Bob Ironsmith, city CRA director.
The city currently pays $36,000 annually for a lease on the property that could go toward the debt service.
The due diligence efforts include environmental surveys, geotechnical evaluations and a vertical parking "test fit."
The due diligence is expected to be completed by early October and under a contract the CRA has until Oct. 27 to complete the inspection. City commissioners also sit as the CRA board.
The three-story garage, as discussed, would have 100 to 155 parking spaces.
"It doesn't make sense in my opinion if we can't go to vertical at some date," Ironsmith said. "It's just a very strong price tag for a surface parking lot."
At this point, staff says it's too early to give an estimate on the cost of a new garage.
City officials frequently discuss the need to acquire more parking spaces. They noted at the CRA meeting that 41 parking spots will be lost once a new development is built at Douglas Avenue and Main Street, where Ocean Optics was located.
Plans for a proposed development on that property is in the initial phases of the city's approval process.
"When Ocean Optics goes away, it will be a sound heard around the world," said Commissioner Moe Freaney.
She and other commissioners called preliminary action that night a proactive step and commended staff for it.
"It's much needed," Commissioner Deborah Kynes said.
Commissioner Jeff Gow agreed that the purchase of the property was necessary though he prefers to look at the parking garage in tandem with other sources of transportation, such as golf carts and bicycles.
"I'm concerned about building structures that invite more traffic downtown without considering other alternatives to transportation," Gow said.
Though she didn't disagree with Gow for the long term, Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said the city has to act now because of the parking shortage. She also said architectural standards have to be met.
"I'm sorry. It's got to look nice," she said. "We're asking other people to go the extra mile to make things look nice. We need to do that, too," Bujalski said.
Kynes mentioned that a parking garage that she and Ironsmith had seen years ago in Winter Park was "so beautifully done."
"It just melded right in," she said. "They spent the money to do it. It looked just like another structure."
Commissioner John Tornga said he would like to see the parking garage as a multi-use facility. There are many examples of that in Florida and elsewhere.
"We want to keep ourselves very flexible about that," Tornga said.
Closing on the property, if the project continues to move forward, is slated for Nov. 29.