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Pensacola Could Again Oversee Downtown Parking

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UWF
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If Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson gets his way, the city would return as administrator of public parking downtown. The City Council could vote on the issue as early as Thursday afternoon.

“We’re required, 120 days before we [take over] to submit something to the DIB that’s our intention to take things back over; this really have been coming for the last six to seven months,” said the mayor, speaking via Facebook on Wednesday.

When new DIB management took over about a year ago, a study reevaluating parking in the 44-block downtown area was conducted. A recommendation was issued at the first of this year, some of it dealing with pricing.

“The more central you were – if you were on Palafox [St.] you get like 15-30 miuntes. If you out in the second tier, you might get a free hour,” Robinson said. “The further out you go from that you might get two hours free. So the idea is, obviously, if you’re willing to park a little bit further away and walk, there’s more free opportunity to you.”

Robinson wants the City Council to kick out the 2007 interlocal agreement, which handed control of parking to the DIB starting the following year. He says this new proposal still falls short.

“We probably need to be moving a bit forward a little bit with deliberations; a couple of things we probably would have done in March and April if we had the opportunity,” the mayor said. “We picked those up in May; I expect that we will take everything back over from the DIB at some point over this first year and look at new bids.”

Despite the delays brought on by the coronavirus, plans are still in the works to get the deal in place by the end of the fiscal year on September 30. That in turn, says the mayor, could lead to some new opportunities.

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Credit City of Pensacola via Facebook
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Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson, during a virtual news conference in his City Hall office.

“On nights and weekends to use the county [parking] lot in a much different way to provide probably a lower option of parking cost for individuals,” said Robinson. “We have hundreds of parking spaces in there that we can better utilize.”

The plan also calls for better signage when it comes to directions and what Robinson calls “way-finding.” He adds they’re already taking steps in that area.

“We changed double parking during the COVID period to provide over 50 new spaces on Spring Street that are free; and as far as I made the commitment on nights and weekends they will always be free,” said the mayor. “So that you would have the opportunity to find a place to park on Garden Street from Main to Spring Street.”

Parking on Spring Street is about two blocks from Palafox. Robinson says the rule of thumb is that the closer you want to park to Palafox, the more you have to pay for the privilege.

“If the idea is you want to be parking free, you may have to walk a little longer; if you want to park right at the intersection you may have to pay a little bit more,” said Robinson. “That gives you — the parker, the consumer — options and opportunities so that you have an ability to pick what works best for you.”

The Downtown Improvement Board was created in 1972 by state law. Members are nominated by the mayor and approved by the City Council, but it’s a separate, independent agency.

“There are things that we can learn from what the DIB has done and we can institute; but we can probably implement some better ways that the DIB did historically that created a lot of uproar,” said the mayor. “But at the end of the day I think many things the DIB did has put us in the right direction; I just think implementation could have been handled a little bit better, and that’s what we’re going to work on.”

The Pensacola City Council meets at 5:30 Thursday afternoon at City Hall.