A better way to develop the Palm Harbor Marina site

According to the Palm Beach Post, Palm Harbor Marina has two options before the City: The original proposal that would conform to a 75 foot height limit, and a revised proposal that would create a parking podium to internalize parking, but in doing would rise to a height of 92 feet.

Earlier this month, I covered the original proposal (75 feet) and discussed some of the pros and cons. I wrote that, compared to what could have been built here under the CC-2 zoning, this is a big improvement and overall, a decent project. But my hangup has been the parking garage on the waterfront, and I suspect it’s a common sentiment. After all, who wants to look at an ugly parking garage when we could have a public use activate the space, such as people dining by the water, enjoying the views, generating economic activity and creating jobs? It appears the developer is taking some heat, as the second option is an attempt at concealing/minimizing the negative impact of the parking garage to the adjacent properties.


Folks at the Waterview Towers don’t want a tower over 75 feet tall when they bought under the assumption nothing over 75 feet tall would be built next door. That’s totally understandable. The developer wants to maximize profit and get the maximum yield from their land. Also understandable.  The general public, and I’d venture the City Commission, don’t want a parking structure along a public promenade, devaluing it. After all, the CRA plans to draw people northward along the waterfront and reactivate it. From the Old City Hall ITN:

In 2011, the CRA hired a consultant to propose design enhancements to the City’s beautiful Waterfront Park. One of the recommendations was to extend the “park” north along Flagler Drive and to connect the park with those parcels north of Banyan Blvd. In addition the goal is to create additional park land to draw pedestrians north to attractions planned for the newly expanded park areas which will extend to 3rd Street. A copy of the preliminary plan is available under separate cover.

Putting a garage in this location is anathema to this plan.

Rather than providing on-site parking, the developer could provide spaces in an off-site parking facility, such as the Old City Hall redevelopment site. Already, the developer has proposed to provide some of its parking off-site:

The applicant is proposing to pay into the City’s parking trust fund for the 32 parking spaces not provided on site, as permitted by Section 94-485(i) of the zoning code.

The City and CRA have also anticipated a shared parking arrangement with the Old City Hall site and consultants noted the capacity available and the expansion opportunities in the Banyan garage. From the Old City Hall site ITN:

The City owns a 400 space parking garage directly across the street from the Site. On February 22, 2010, Lansing Melbourne Group issued the Banyan Street Garage Demand Study and a technical memorandum on the feasibility of the vertical expansion of the garage. (See Exhibits A & B). The study indicated that the existing demand in the garage comes primarily from the Clematis Street entertainment businesses and that there is substantial capacity during daylight hours during the week. The structural analysis showed that the existing structure could accommodate the addition of another level to the garage adding 120 spaces to today’s capacity for future growth or redevelopment. Today, the garage has 162 monthly parkers (40% of capacity). A total of 97 spaces have access throughout the day and week while the remaining 65 spaces have Monday through Friday access only.

There is an opportunity for a shared parking configuration with the development to utilize some of the parking in the Banyan garage. Proposers should review this option and analyze the best parking configuration for their proposed development.

The off-site parking option would remove an ugly, dead use from the public waterfront,  while activating it with a hotel and restaurant, making the waterfront more valuable in the process. It would also be consistent with CRA plans to extend and activate the public waterfront northward.

The developer could build in the entire footprint where there is now a parking garage, allowing for more rooms and higher yield on cost, and eliminating the need for a costly structured garage with expensive car lifts. Good for the developer. And more rooms for our downtown merchants. Lastly, and importantly, there is no reason this project should go above 75 feet in this scenario. It’s a win-win scenario.

Site plan
Site plan

We are working on ways to make better use of our streets downtown, and the upcoming recommendations from the downtown walkability study will certainly include ways to slow down and make Flagler Drive a better, safer, more pleasant experience. A slower and safer Flagler Drive is easier to traverse for pedestrians, hotel patrons, and hotel valets. This should help with objections about locating parking facilities off-site, and will also be consistent with the CRA goals to draw pedestrians north.

A great waterfront is a public asset because it confers benefits to the entire community at large. We don’t create great waterfronts because we are rich. We become rich (as a community) because we create great waterfronts. This enhanced value is captured by the expanded tax base of the entire downtown, and the city as a whole.

Let’s create a great waterfront we can be proud of for years to come.

[If you agree, please forward your thoughts to the City Commission and the Mayor, and come to the Commission meeting at 5 pm if you can].



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