BOCA RATON — More public parking will be needed in Boca Raton as the bustling downtown grows, a city study found.
Between 100 and 350 parking places in the central portion of the downtown, near Mizner Park and Royal Palm Place plazas, will be needed in the next two decades based on parking trends, according to Kimley-Horn and Associates, a consulting firm hired by the city. The firm presented the study to city officials Monday.
The firm took a sampling of mid-day and evening parking at the city’s 1,275 public spots in March and April. Only 70 percent of overall parking spots were used during peak hours, but areas such as Mizner Park saw much higher utilization, said Chris Heggen of Kimley-Horn.
That 70 percent usage “means there is enough parking supply overall in the downtown to meet the demand that is occurring,” Heggen said.
But growth in southern Palm Beach County and expected development in downtown Boca Raton indicates at least 108 parking spots will be needed within the next five years. Up to 350 parking spaces will be needed by 2040, the firm found.
A few options were recommended to alleviate parking pains:
- Surface parking. The city could purchase between 2.5 and 3.5 acres of land in the central area of downtown and create a surface parking lot.
- Parking garage. About 2 acres would be needed for a parking garage in the central portion of downtown, and it would cost the city up to $10 million. The parking garage could include meters to generate revenue, Heggen said.
- Off-site parking with a shuttle. The city could offer parking near the downtown and have a convenient shuttle transport visitors during peak hours.
- Public-private partnership. Agreements could be made with the owners of built and forthcoming developments to add public parking. Ideally, the city would partner with an office building, which would have parking available during peak evening hours.
- City government campus parking. The city has discussed building a city government campus in downtown Boca Raton. Additional public parking for visitors could be taken into consideration in planned the government campus, Heggen said.
City leaders pointed out that other areas of the downtown, such as Southeast First Avenue where two new restaurants – Louie Bossi and Frank and Dino’s – have driven up parking needs, have also added to downtown demand in recent months.
“You might as well go out and count again,” Mayor Susan Haynie said.
Another option downtown is smart meters, which may eliminate free parking in certain areas.
Pay-to-park may not be ideal in downtown Boca Raton, because some of the spots are underutilized, Heggen said.
The city will collect more data before parking proposals are brought forward.