TREASURE ISLAND — City officials are exploring whether a public/private partnership might be the answer to resolving the lack of downtown parking.
Representatives of the Bilmar Beach Resort are meeting with city officials to talk about initiating a feasibility study to determine whether a parking garage downtown would be viable and whether they will participate in the project.
Mayor Robert Minning, who is involved in the discussions, is hoping an agreement can be reached to jointly fund a study, estimated to cost between $10,000 to $15,000.
"We cannot develop downtown to its full potential without addressing the parking issue," he said. Because of limited space, Minning thinks a two-story parking garage might be the answer because it would restrict the size of the building's footprint.
Walgreen Co. executives also have indicated an interest in getting involved. The Bilmar owns property adjacent to the Walgreens on the east side of Gulf Boulevard, across from the hotel.
Voters in March approved a referendum question allowing for new residences in the city's downtown core area with up to 24 units per acre. Minning thinks that vote has put more of a focus on resolving the lack of parking.
Clyde Smith, general manager of the Bilmar, said the talks will determine "who is willing to step forward and take a leadership role."
City Manager Reid Silverboard said setting up a framework that determines the city's goals and objectives is necessary in putting together a public/private partnership.
"There is a lot of work that has to be done to see if it will be a public effort, a public/private effort or a private endeavor," he said.
A feasibility study would determine what usage a parking garage would have during different times of the year, how much money it would generate and other details, Silverboard said.
"This is going to take awhile to nail down," he added.
According to some preliminary figures Silverboard has collected, the cost of the garage would be about $10,000 to $20,000 per space. He estimated that a garage would accommodate a couple of hundred spaces, with a total cost of between $2 million and $4 million.