ABOVE: The proposed site in the City's RFP includes the new public grass parking lot on 3rd Avenue and Baker.
By Crissy Stile On March 5 the City of Mount Dora released Request for Proposal (RFP) to solicit bids for the development of two existing downtown surface parking lots on Baker Street.
The RFP is seeking bids from developers to potentially develop, design, construct, finance, operate, maintain, and own either a parking garage or a mixed-use development. The latter must comprise a parking garage with at least two different uses which may include residential, office, mixed uses, and commercial retail. A minimum of 495 parking spaces in the parking structure is required.
In a 2016 parking study, the City reported a total of 720 public parking spaces were available in the downtown area. The study cited City maps to factor in the 625 public spaces in downtown Mount Dora plus 95 spaces at the First Methodist Church parking lot on 5th Avenue to total the 720. The same study found that in peak season there was an approximate shortage of 286 spaces if all the existing restaurants’ indoor seating was full. The study didn’t account for outdoor dining in its calculations.
In the five years since Mount Dora’s parking study, downtown’s parking equation has inevitably changed. In 2017, dozens of parking spaces were removed on one side of sections of streets to provide better access for emergency vehicles. In 2018, the parking calculations changed further when a thriving new tenant (with approximately 50 employees at the time) moved into downtown’s Sunset Building on Baker Street. Although those factors increased the parking deficit, the City added 49 spaces when it opened a grass parking lot on 3rd Avenue and Baker Street in 2019.
In the current parking garage RFP, the proposed development site includes two existing surface parking lots with a total of 95 spaces. Development of these lots further increases the parking shortage without taking into account any future land development in the downtown area. There are private development projects currently in the planning stages that would negatively impact, even further, the City’s parking dilemma. Additionally, any mixed-use development as a result of parking garage RFP would also create a need for additional parking.
Meanwhile, Mount Dora Planning and Zoning Commission could be tasked with approving or denying the approximate 6,500 square-foot proposed addition to the Sunset Building at 3rd Avenue and Baker Street. Additionally, the proposed 53-foot Gaslight Building is a new proposed mixed-use commercial building, approximately 17,250 square feet and over 3 stories with rooftop amenity which would further increase the need for more parking spaces. That building would be located directly across the street from the proposed parking garage development.
As Mount Dora’s parking garage RFP was introduced, a familiar discussion has been “raised” yet again -- should Mount Dora increase building heights downtown? Currently the maximum building height allowed Downtown is 35 feet, the Planning and Zoning Commission has asked City Staff to prepare an ordinance increasing Downtown building heights to 55 feet, significantly higher than downtown’s Renaissance Building.
In September 2018, G3 Development proposed a very similar garage development through a public private partnership (PPP) with the City for a 488 space parking structure to be constructed on part of the development site included in this newly-presented RFP.
The City paid $798,000 for the 0.54 acre property that currently has 49 parking spaces. Additional expenses were incurred for the restroom facility, the automatic arm closure at the entrance as well as the sod, landscaping and the grid system under the grass. Total cost is over $1,000,000 (over $20,000 per parking space). This lot is closed on Monday and Tuesday of each week to allow the grass some relief from vehicle traffic. In the current RFP to develop a parking garage, this property would be incorporated into the new garage project.
There is a residential property sandwiched between the two proposed parcels to be developed in the RFP.
The City’s recommended Developer (based on proposals submitted) will be announced on May 6, 2021. City Council will vote to approve the recommended developer on May 18, 2021.
By Crissy Stile
ABOVE: The proposed site in the City's RFP includes the surface parking lot between Baker Street & Tremain that borders the railroad tracks.
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