FORT PIERCE — Could a Broward County garage have the answer for this city’s beach-parking woes?
A nine-member parking committee wants Fort Pierce to buy the Lipshitz and DiMaggio convenience store property, 301 South Ocean Drive, and build a parking garage with retail or restaurants on the ground floor.
The City Commission has held off approving the recommendation, but has asked the committee to comeback with cost estimates, City Clerk Linda Cox said.
The committee came up with the idea earlier this year after visiting the Deerfield Beach Place parking garage in that beachside city. Deerfield Beach Place, on a property about the size of the South Ocean Drive lot, is a five-story garage with seven stores and restaurants on the ground floor and 362 parking spaces on the upper floors.
Those tenants — which includes Bru’s Room sports grill and Kilwin’s Chocolate Ice Cream — share 16,500 square feet on the ground floor, said Michael Sears, general manager and vice president of operations for USA Parking, which manages the garage.
“It took us several years to get retail stabilized and, as you know, beach retail is unique,” Sears said.
The privately owned, $5.4 million garage has weekday hourly parking rates of $2.50 to $10 and weekend rates of $3.50 to $12. Customers of the garage’s tenants receive one hour free parking.
Fort Pierce officials have not said if they would charge for parking.
Owners of existing Fort Pierce beach businesses said they support building a garage and or a paved lot.
“There is a severe parking problem, and it is only going to get worse as more and more people come to the beach,” said Thomas Bowden, general manager of Blue Water Beach Grill, across from the Fort Pierce Inlet.
The parking shortage hurts business because customers don’t want to spend time “circling the block,” said Bonnie Turk, co-owner of Hurricane Grill Wings across from the inlet.
“During lunch hour we don’t get the downtown employees because they know they won’t have enough time to park, order, eat and get back to the office in time,” Turk said.
Business owners said putting in new restaurants could attract people who are looking for something new at the beach.
“I’m all for any growth,” said Jack Rea owner of the Jetty Bar. “We, the business owners, all want this to be a nice area. Something the community could have pride in.”