Private company snatches Treasure Island parcel city had eyed for parking

Published Oct. 12, 2016

TREASURE ISLAND — A Maine-based company has swooped in and bought land the city was looking at to create a commercial parking lot that could ease parking congestion at Sunset Beach.

City officials had hoped to buy the Gulf Boulevard land for the same purpose, creating a new revenue stream for city coffers.

Unified Parking Partners, a parking management company in Portland, Maine, has entered into a two-year lease-purchase agreement for a vacant 1.5-acre parcel on the northeast corner of Gulf Boulevard and First Street across from Sunset Vista Park.

John Richardson, a company representative who declined to disclose the purchase price, said that although his company's offer was accepted over the city's $2.1 million lease-purchase offer, he sees this as a "win-win situation."

"We are good corporate neighbors wherever we go, and I think a number of people wanted to see this property remain on the tax rolls," he said.

Details on the property's future use are still up in the air, Richardson said. The city had planned to create a 200-space parking lot on the land.

A portion of the property is zoned resort facilities medium and would have to be rezoned to allow for parking.

City Manager Reid Silverboard, who had been authorized to negotiate for the property purchase, said he was disappointed that the city's offer was rejected.

"It's a lost opportunity for providing another revenue source and parking we control," he said.

While city officials say there is too much congestion on the southern tip of Treasure Island with its narrow streets and businesses that generate lots of cars, a number of Sunset Beach residents had protested the city's parking lot plans.

Some said they were afraid a parking lot would encourage more traffic.

It is the first land purchase in Florida for Unified Parking Partners, Richardson said. The 700-employee company, which operates in Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire, has been looking at property in the area to purchase for the past year, he said.

It will manage parking for the new Sea Dog Pub and Brewery being developed at the site of the former site of Captain Kosmakos Bar and Grill, 9610 Gulf Blvd., just down the street.

"They've done a great job with the valet parking at our Maine locations," said Fred Forsley, owner of the Sea Dog chain, which has restaurants in Clearwater, Orlando, Maine and New Hampshire.

Richardson said the company has "already reached out to a number of businesses" in the area and wants to "determine the needs of the community."