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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Clearwater City Council mulls beach parking options




City traffic engineers recommended Monday that the city not convert Poinsettia Avenue and Eastshore Drive into one-way streets to accommodate a new parking garage on Clearwater Beach --- at least not right away.

“Our recommendation is that we build the garage and then look at making a change in the traffic pattern if it looks like there’s a problem with the garage in operation,” said Paul Bertels, the city’s traffic operations manager at a City Council work session. 

Eventually, converting Poinsettia and Eastshore to one-way traffic could “work very well,” Bertels said, but it would increase congestion where Poinsettia branches off from the Clearwater Beach roundabout as cars exit off Memorial Causeway.

Such a traffic redesign would also put more wheels along Baymont Street to the north of the proposed nearly 700-car garage at the Pelican Walk Plaza.

Paradise Group, a Safety Harbor developer, will build the garage. In 2016, the city will buy at least 450 spaces for about $11 million, using parking fund revenue, according to a tentative agreement. 

Studies have shown that pedestrians don’t like to walk along one-way streets, which could damage efforts to develop a pedestrian-friendly “marina district” along Eastshore Drive, said Geri Lopez, the city’s director of economic development and housing.

Property values also have a tendency to go down when streets are turned into one-way avenues, she said.

Beach residents have concerns about the garage, which the city gave preliminary approval to on March 20. 

Mayor George Cretekos urged council members to stay on message regarding money spent to build the garage in the face of loud complaints from some beach residents.

 Parking revenue will be used for the city’s portion of the seven-level garage. Many beach residents think their property taxes will be used to pay for the garage, Cretekos said.

“This garage is going to use private-sector funding initially and then we’ll be using parking fund money, which is not taxpayer money. It’s not from your property taxes,” Cretekos said.

“It is still the people’s money. We generate it from the public,” said council member Hoyt Hamilton.

 Parking fund revenue comes from money fed into parking meters and fines. The garage is slated to open next year. 

[Last modified: Monday, March 31, 2014 5:38pm]


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