Sunday, June 10, 2018

OMG! PARKING! Where will everyone park if the Gulfstream Hotel restoration and property development begins?

Some residents in the Downtown are getting riled up again over The Parking! available in the Downtown. So before this gets to the “Houston, we have a problem” stage, find out how the Casino and the Beach can be part of the parking solution without the Beach being part of the actual overall plan in the future vis-à-vis the Gulfstream Hotel renovation and construction of a new hotel on the empty western lot.

Parking was one of the big issues when a developer no longer associated with the Gulfstream Hotel tried to make the Beach property part of the overall plan to restore this historic hotel. That effort, if you recall, did not go over with the public very well. Remember the meeting held by Hudson Holdings in 2015: “Better Beach. Better Lake Worth. Better Life”? But things did not get better from that point.

Following that meeting in
the Lake Worth Casino ballroom. . .

Historically, one of the most vexing problems with the Gulfstream Hotel when it was open for business, was parking. Use this link for a short explanation. A parking garage would solve that problem and those zoning approvals were allowed once already. But I digress.

Back when the municipal pool at the Beach was still open would use the pool 3–4 times a week, mostly on my bike and sometimes by car, arriving around 10:30 or so. During the weekdays that would be when the photo (see below) was taken. The weekdays make up 71% of the week.

Sorry, don’t want to be laborious here but we have to talk some people off the ledge. So please be patient.
View from the Casino complex looking west
during an average weekday.

The above picture is of the lower parking lot on the western side of the Casino property. Whilst the smaller, top portion is usually close to full with cars (people eating at Benny’s or making the hike to one of the Casino building spaces) the lower parking lot is mostly empty during the typical weekday. From the site plan, that amounts to about 416 parking spaces, creating a sea of asphalt for would-be automobiles that would occupy these spaces if there were demand for them on weekdays.

I think we can all agree a mostly-empty parking lot represents a lost revenue opportunity, regardless of how you choose to look at “the numbers” that make up the Beach Fund. This Casino parking lot could be the parking for the Gulfstream Hotel to accommodate construction workers, Gulfstream employees, and many others freeing up parking in the downtown.

A shuttle could pick people up but many might just walk over the bridge since it’s a relatively short walk anyway. And the Gulfstream owners, of course, would pay the City for the privilege of using this parking area especially for the convenience of their employees.

Hopefully, when the Gulfstream Hotel project moves forward there will be many ideas on how to solve the parking issue, if any do arise, and the Casino parking lot is just one idea. All it takes is cool heads to prevail and look at opportunities and possibilities instead of the first reaction always being a near panic. Another potential solution would be the addition of one more level of parking on the parking structure proposed for the Gulfstream Hotel redevelopment, the last approval if I recall correctly, left open that possibility to add more levels later.

And finally, you may be asking yourself this question: “Why is the Casino parking lot so large and so empty most of the time?” Good question.

Much like parking lots of shopping malls all across our nation, this space was built for “peak demand” times. The problem is that represents only 29% of the time, a generous estimate on a weekly basis. Add to that the lower level parking being too far from destination uses, the pier and the Casino building itself, you have a situation where people may make the choice, while deciding where to go for lunch or breakfast, they don’t want to mess with the parking at the Beach, having to pay for it and then walking uphill (in the hot Summer!) for the “privilege” of going to the Beach.

There are so many other restaurant destinations in our Downtown many residents and visitors would find more preferable than the hassle of going to the Beach. And unlike the Casino — almost all of our Downtown restaurants have free parking nearby — both free parking lots and free street parking as well.

I hope that helps explain things. And imagine this, there’s more progress to report!

Made it through an entire blog post that brings up the Casino and didn’t once mention the prior City administration that got us all into this mess in the first place and didn’t bring up the Greater Bay plan either, you know, the plan that included a parking garage at the Beach.

The public was never allowed to examine this plan
for the Beach and Casino. Heavy Sigh.
This plan tackled the fundamental flaw all along:
A Casino structure at the Beach should occupy the center of the Beach property, not to the north where the structure is presently located.