Sunday, February 28, 2016

No Lightner Museum Parking Garage Desired/Required

Today's Record has yet another misguided column proposing another massive downtown parking garage, this one trying to revive the notion of one south of City Hall and the Lightner Museum.
Thanks for thinking, but it's unadorned by research, statistics or a business model: who's going to pay for another Taj Mahal and why?
No way.
I would invoke President Obama's foreign policy mantra to this proposal.
No way.
It would destroy a residential neighborhood.
St. Augustine voters wisely rejected the notion of a Lightner Parking Garage in the 2002 election, when we elected Mayor George Gardner and Commissioners Errol Jones and Donald Crichlow. Ex-Mayor Len Weeks once explained the need for a Lightner Parking Garage on the basis his "shoes got wet" before the Menendez Noche de Gala in 2002.
For good reasons, the electorate and Commissioners rejected the notion of a Lightner Garage.
As President Obama says on foreign affairs: "DON'T DO STUPID STUFF!"

Letter: Multi-level Lightner complex music to their ears
Posted: February 27, 2016 - 10:08pm | Updated: February 28, 2016 - 12:03am

St. Augustine
John Valdes’ valuable insights Feb. 14 into the increasing interest in multi-purpose, multi-level parking, encourages us to point out the value of exploring plans which, according to Martha Graham, were developed for a parking structure downtown where the City Hall/Lightner complex encompasses the parking area between M.L. King and Cordova streets.

As Valdes points out, tourists, residents and business owners find the present situation frustrating! Just as Francis Field is home to large events and recreation, downtown hosts many of the arts and entertainment venues, galleries, restaurants and museums. City Hall includes the Lightner Museum, which in turn attracts visitors to its shops, fine restaurant and turn-of the-century exhibits.

The St. Augustine Orchestra appreciates the ambiance of the Lightner when performing there. In fact, Martha Graham is not only the city’s director of public works, she also wears another hat: clarinetist with the orchestra. She is especially qualified to speak for the importance of downtown parking for City Hall and other employers. And wearing her orchestra concert night hat, she knows that Friday is a nightmare night for parking downtown.

I, too, am a member of the orchestra, and my husband is a retired engineer. His interests center around the parking issue; mine include the reasons people want to park. The north end of town has a proposed solution which seems to be elegant. Why not pursue a multi-use parking plan for downtown?

A detailed parking plan would offer jitney service between the proposed multi-level garage and the current one at Francis Field, with designated limited stops in between. Narrated tourist trolley service and carriages would be available as they are now at the Francis Field location or the bayfront. The jitney service could be available for a small extra fee, or could be included with garage fees. Street parking should be reserved for county residents with ParkNow cards, or residents with decals, which would be prominently displayed and renewed each year. Private parking currently managed by hotels, restaurants, churches and businesses would continue on an as-needed basis.

On Feb. 3, I sent an email regarding a collaboration between the orchestra and the Lightner/City Hall complex to our St. Augustine friends, Joanne (a flautist) and her husband Gene (an architect) outlining some thoughts concerning downtown spaces. This email, abbreviated below, followed an invitation from the local arts organization to get together and share our plans:

■ The city and other businesses need more parking. Residents need more parking. The public needs more parking, particularly for after-hours events.

■ The orchestra and other performing groups need more space for performers and audiences, with better lighting, sound systems and facilities. The Lightner needs more money and visitors. Lewis Auditorium accommodates large audiences, but is heavily booked by the college and the EMMA Concert Association. It is often too large for chamber concerts. The churches and schools have time restrictions and are not generally ideal performance venues. A medium-sized concert-entertainment center and an adjacent parking facility are a win-win.

■ Briefly, we propose that the Lightner and the city cooperate in adding a multi-story parking lot extending between the Lightner/City Hall complex and the Bridge Street facility at the other end. This parking space would culminate at the Lightner/City Hall end with a glassed-in gallery opening to both the second and first floors of the Lightner and the garage. The two-story gallery spaces would provide room for displays, ticketing, an elevator, etc.

Regarding improvements to the museum itself: On the second level, in the former pool area of the museum, there would be theater seats, as in small European theaters. Lighting and sound equipment would be installed. The first and third floors still need flex space, with movable, comfortable chairs and tables. These require storage space. The basement (the “dungeon”) needs to be redesigned. By rearranging the current basement and first floor space and incorporating the new glassed-in gallery, the audience gains restrooms downstairs, a ticketing booth, advertising, souvenir and refreshment space and pre-event shelter.

The architecture of the Lightner would not be compromised.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know what you are so upset about. Morris has always encouraged the Editors of their print publications to have a cozy relationship with the local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, local Tourism Councils, Real Estate Development Councils and so forth. These relationships generate much needed advertising revenue for Morris, who funds pubs like The Record at a huge,huge loss (tax write-off). The sooner you promote a similar agenda, the better off we'll all be (smirk).