Friday, June 26, 2015

West Palm Beach Convention Center hotel’s new parking plan: Valets crossing Okeechobee to retrieve cars

Click here for link to an Eliot Kleinberg story on requested changes to the parking arrangement for the downtown West Palm Beach convention center hotel. The building is now under construction. Part of its site plan and agreement with Palm Beach County includes a two-level, 630-space parking garage next to the hotel. The developer would now like to keep that a 300-car surface lot to accommodate future hotel expansion. They also would manage the CityPlace parking garage (deal already struck) for an additional 300 spaces to replace those not being provided south of Okeechobee Boulevard, next to the hotel.

The plan would involve valet parking attendants potentially running across Okeechobee to retrieve cars. The developer and city seem to agree that parking requirements and estimates are higher than they should be. The city goes so far to assert that most people will be arriving by cab since they will be attending conventions. An assumption that may or may not be the case. The article makes a point that the project is $10 million over budget.

This is going before the County Commission on July 7th. From the article:
     When the county approved the hotel in October 2012, plans called for a two-level, 630-space garage, with motorists parking on the ground level and the roof, according to the agenda memo for the July 7 commission meeting.
     Related says eliminating the garage would save $5 million. The company believes parking demand projections are high, and it projects the hotel, which is expected to open next year, will do well enough that it later will want to build a hotel wing on the surface lot.
     But county staff “is concerned,” the memo said.
     Besides pointing out that the garage is a requirement of the development agreement, county officials say parking demand is higher than Related’s projections and they worry about valet drivers crossing Okeechobee to CityPlace, and coming back on foot, both of which the memo said “will worsen an already poor traffic pattern during peak periods.”
An option could be concentrating the parking in the planned location using a mechanical parking stacking system to get more parking spaces on a smaller footprint. This would be operated by valets but prevent the need from running across Okeechobee to retrieve cars. It might also still provide room for future hotel expansion, while providing the eventual number of parking spaces for a larger facility. Just an observation (but probably not feasible since the project is already well over budget).

If I recall correctly, early on many thought the hotel should be built higher to better use the space available, perhaps integrating the parking garage with the hotel building structure.