Jacksonville Beach seeks details for possible parking garage

Downtown Jacksonville Beach needs improvement and part of the fix is more codes enforcement, better parking and trying to address the problem of homeless in the area.
During a joint session of the city council and its Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), there was a clear consensus that the city’s downtown area can look better.
Several officials noted that repairs and maintenance need to be tackled, and businesses encouraged to take initiative.
It was suggested the city could reinstate its grant program, providing small stipends to downtown businesses for capital improvements such as canopies, landscaping and other beautification. Economic incentives were also mentioned.
Several expressed frustration with not having one person in charge of making sure downtown problems get addressed proactively. Adding a code enforcement officer to focus on the city’s two redevelopment areas was suggested.
City Manager Mike Staffopoulos also suggested that a tracking system for work orders could help so that when problems are found, there will be follow-through.
During the 90-minute meeting, there was discussion about the need for a parking garage and the possible location of the same. Some suggested it be built on the fringes of the downtown’s Central Business District, while others said convenience was key and any garage should be centrally located.
Design, including incorporation of retail on the ground floor of any garage, was also broached.
Staff was directed to provide a report by June on each of the city-owned parking lots in downtown and the viability for a garage on the sites. Another joint session of the CRA and council will be held in June.
Parking garage capacity and costs are to be provided then, although numbers may not be exact.
It was also suggested the city look at what it would cost to acquire some adjoining properties, including an office building at 3rd Street North, between 3rd and 4th avenues and  nearby apartments that adjoin a city lot, to maximize a parking garage. Public-private partnerships were also suggested as a means of getting parking garages built.
Councilor Phil Vogelsang said a parking garage is needed so that valuable oceanfront property is not developed to parking.
Councilor Chris Hoffman said she is lukewarm to a parking garage, noting she will drive around so as not to have to use a parking garage.
The issue of aggressive panhandling by homeless drew comments Monday.
Councilor Keith Doherty, whose business, Lynch’s Pub, is in the downtown area, said Jacksonville Beach has become the area’s “dumping ground” for homeless and asked that might be because they are given free food and medical care in the city. He said that businesses should be encouraged to know they do not have to be tolerant to homeless people seeking shelter on private property.
Councilor Georgette Dumont said intensive outreach to the homeless could help, as many homeless want to be left alone and do not want to be the target of focused attention by people persistently confronting them and offering assistance.

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