Downtown Jacksonville's Darth Vader

May 24, 2007 13 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Downtown Jacksonville’s most damaging menaces may not be who you think. When you think about people holding Downtown back, you may think of the homeless, you may think about the speculators trying to buy downtown one historic building at a time just to sit on them, or you might think of the city administration itself. However, there is another group that is arguably more dangerous to downtown then all of these individuals (yes, even more dangerous than the Mayor’s Office). Who is this group of individuals looking to expose their evil to downtown?

The Parking Facility Owners.

No matter why you come downtown, most people choose to drive, creating this need for parking. Parking has become very profitable for a select group of downtown businesspeople, notably Mark Rimmer and Republic Parking, who managed to get the city to guarantee them a profit for running a couple of parking garages, something that apparently is too difficult for the city (considering that they operate four parking facilities already).

Much has been made in the past about how our downtown parking rates are lower than average, however most parking rate statistics are based on the monthly parking rate, not the daily rate.

Here is a comparison of one of our brand new city-owned garages – the Jacksonville Library Garage - compared with a privately owned garage in Miami Beach, specifically, South Beach.  This garage is on 16th Street, in the heart of South Beach in Miami:

 Library GarageSouth Beach
1 Hour$3.00$1.00
2 Hours$5.00$2.00
3 Hours$7.00$6.00

As you can see, there is no comparison – especially when you consider what is within waking distance of the heart of South Beach, versus Downtown Jacksonville.

In Miami Beach, you could get this and pay less for parking.

Now, you could make the argument that there are a lot more customers at a garage in South Beach than Downtown Jacksonville.  However, the costs to operate a garage in South Florida are significantly higher as well.  Remember all of those JEA ads about how low our electrical rates are?  Furthermore, did you hear are Charlie Crist’s Property Tax Reform?  The driving force behind that is skyrocketing property taxes, particularly in South Florida.

Perhaps the customer base in Downtown Jacksonville makes profiting on a garage difficult.  Well, if it was so difficult, then why would a company like Republic Parking even exist in Jacksonville?  Perhaps some of it has to do with the fact that this administration has guaranteed Republic Parking a profit on the operation of the garage.  This raises two questions:

1. Why does Republic Parking need to be guaranteed a profit on a brand new garage, when they own many other parking garages downtown?

2. If they really need to be guaranteed a profit, perhaps private business shouldn’t be in Parking Garage management.

Why should we guarantee parking garage owners a profit when the city currently operates parking facilities anyway?  In the core of downtown, the city owns six parking facilities.  They manage four of them (The Courthouse Lot on the River, the Yates Garage on East Adams St, the Water Street Garage, and the Jacksonville Landing Parking Lot), and outsource the management of two of them (The Library Garage on West Duval Street, and the Courthouse Garage at the New Courthouse Site). The rates at the city managed facilities are comparable to the garages down south, and don’t require Mrs. Mandarin or Mr. Baymeadows to shell out three dollars just to come downtown for an hour.

So, since Metro Jacksonville is known for developing solutions to problems facing the core, how about this:

1. Take the management of the Library and Courthouse Garages in house, and lower the rates to the level of the other city owned garages.

2. With six strategically placed parking facilities in the core, establish some sort of validation program.

With all of the city owned parking facilities (Above in Green), a validation program could be possible.

A merchant validation program would allow people to come downtown and not be taxed significantly for simply driving over the Acosta Bridge. 

Programs like this encourage people to come to the core, and thus, would increase the number of customers downtown and in the garages, meaning that revenue should increase (remember the whole supply-demand-price thing from economics 101?).