St. Joseph's Hospital wants to revisit Tampa denial of parking plan

Published Feb. 20, 2013

TAMPA — St. Joseph's Hospital wants to revisit a recent City Council vote to deny its bid to tear down a five-story parking garage and replace it with two parking lots.

Hospital administrators say the parking garage, which serves St. Joseph's Women's Hospital, has blind spots and other structural problems that would cost an estimated $1.5 million to $3 million to fix.

Instead, the hospital wants to tear down the garage, built in 1984, and replace it with two lots that would increase the number of spaces provided from 754 to 789. One lot would be on the site of the garage and the second would be at the southeast corner of St. Isabel Street and MacDill Avenue.

But in a 5-2 vote on Jan. 17, the council said no, partly because drivers would enter and leave the parking lots via St. Isabel, a local street. (Council members Harry Cohen and Frank Reddick voted against the motion to deny.)

Council chairman Charlie Miranda suggested that tearing down the garage would give the Women's Hospital room to expand — something that administrators say there are no plans to do.

No residents spoke against the request at the hearing, and no neighbors came to a meeting the hospital organized beforehand to ask questions or raise concerns.

"We want to be a good neighbor," St. Joseph's spokeswoman Lisa Patterson said Tuesday. "We invited the neighbors to come talk to us about it. We haven't heard any opposition about it. We think it's the right thing to do for the neighborhood and for the community that we serve."

The hospital's request for relief said it presented sworn testimony and technical reports that were not rebutted and that it concluded that permitting access to the lots from St. Isabel Street would not degrade the street's level of service and would be consistent with other existing commercial access points already on the street.

The hospital's request to the city asks for a special magistrate to be appointed pursuant to a state law that creates a resolution process aimed at settling land use disputes before they go to court. Attorneys for both sides declined to discuss the merits of the council's decision Tuesday.