ST. PETERSBURG — The booming Edge District has received the initial green light for a parking garage that will be built with public dollars and then be turned over to a private owner.
The St. Petersburg City Council gave unanimous approval Thursday to a preliminary plan that calls for the city to pay up to $6.4 million to Tribridge Residential LLC to build a garage with 243 public parking spaces on a site at 13th Street and Central Avenue.
The money would come from tax-increment financing dollars because the 1.25 acres are contained within the city’s Intown West Community Redevelopment Area. TIF dollars are accumulated from the difference of rising property values within a CRA’s boundaries after a threshold level has been set.
The garage is part of a mixed-use development that will be built by Tribridge, an Atlanta firm.
It plans to build 10,000 square-feet of retail and approximately 64 residential units in the Edge District. The project has no name yet, but the garage should be ready by August 2019.
Under this plan, the city would pay Tribridge to build and then operate the garage.
In return, the developer pledged to pay a 10 percent management fee back to the city. Officials said that should save the city about $1.3 million in maintenance and operating expenses over its 50-year agreement with Tribridge.
Alan DeLisle, the city’s top economic development official, said spending public money to fund a private developer made fiscal sense in the long term.
"We feel like we’ve structured this strategically to reduce the cost for the city," he said.
About $1 million would be left in the TIF after the expenditure, he said. Tribridge also plans to pay for additional parking for residents in its new development.
"This is a great example of a win-win agreement and really thought-out deal," said council chairwoman Darden Rice.
She praised the city’s willingness to seek out a private partner to provide public parking.
The EDGE Business District Association’s board voted to support the deal at a board meeting earlier this week. The group’s executive director said they wanted to make sure that Tribridge didn’t price its parking rates too high, discouraging public use.
City officials have said that a final deal would include provisions that would require the garage to offer competitive parking rates.
Transportation and Parking Management director Evan Mory said private ownership will limit the city’s risks if the garage didn’t draw enough traffic while it still gets 10 percent of the profits. Having the garage on the property tax rolls is another financial advantage, he said, because it would be exempt from taxes if it were owned by the city.
Parking has been a persistent problem in the district, bounded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and 16th Streets and First Avenues N and S.
"This has been the No. 1 priority in the Edge District for as long as I’ve been on council," said Karl Nurse, who has represented the area since 2008.
In recent years, as new restaurants, bars and retail shops popped up, the problem has only worsened. That makes it a perfect environment for Tribridge’s project, said firm partner Steve Broome.
"It’s an intense development, but one that’s compatible with the neighborhood," he said.
Thursday’s action allowed city officials to negotiate a development agreement with Tribridge that would then be brought back to the City Council for final approval at a later date.