Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Price of Garage Hits $11 Million

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Price of Garage Hits $11 Million

Article excerpt

SARASOTA

The State Street Garage, already something of an albatross around Sarasota's neck, just got a whole lot more expensive.

The cost of the downtown parking garage has ballooned from an estimated $7 million to about $11 million, according to city planners. City commissioners faced with the new budget estimate Monday said they were shocked, and some wanted to reconsider building the project in the first place.

But the commissioners also had few options. The city is obligated, through an agreement with developers, to build the garage by 2015.

The reason for the cost increase is the small size and the shape of the garage, said Steven Stancel, the city's chief planner. That design was unpopular as soon as it was chosen by the City Commission last year, and was protested by real estate professionals and builders who called it "compromised," and "not economically feasible."

At the time, commissioners said they were under pressure to choose a design for the garage that would satisfy the contract for 300 parking spaces. But Monday's report was the first indication that the original $7 million budget would have to be increased almost 50 percent.

"The problem is, on a per-parking-space cost, we're blowing it out of the water," Stancel said. "The reason is because of the design inefficiency."

As it turns out, the State Street Garage design isn't just unpopular or unprofitable. Because of the garage's peculiar dimensions, and the city's need to fit retail space into it to see some economic return, it is also inefficient and requires more space and material to support relatively few parking spaces.

Early estimates of the garage's cost, based on larger and more standard garages like the Palm Avenue Garage, were far too low, Stancel said.

The rising cost of construction and materials since the early estimates were made in 2009 also contributed to the increase.

"When you see the price difference here, it does cause one to open their eyes," said City Manager Tom Barwin. Nevertheless, Barwin said he was optimistic that the city could find the money to make up the shortfall. …

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