VENICE - It could soon be up to Venice city residents as to whether they want to pay for a multi-million dollar parking garage downtown. City leaders are gathering info and support.
As owner of Geneo's Discount Merchandise on Miami Avenue, Eugene Stupelman has a first row seat to the dance. "They go around and around and around."
They're not looking to fox trot but for parking spots. Something he says at certain times of the year, downtown Venice lacks. "They need to do something about parking. There is no question about it. I don't think you can find a business here that won't say they need more parking."
Venice city leaders say they may have a solution. This week Mayor John Holic proposed a four level 500+ space parking garage. "We can't wait until cars are stacked on top of each other in the streets and ask what we're going to do now?"
In initial research, Holic used a lot across the street from the First Baptist Church on Miami Avenue -- just a block over from the more popular Venice Avenue. "It was just a suggestion. It's not a prime location. We had to know what it would cost us."
The project is estimated to cost between $6.5 to $7.5 million. It could be paid for using property taxes approved by a citizen voted bond referendum. "Interest rates are as low as they have ever been. If we are going to do it now is the time to do it."
"We barely have an open storefront." Kat Quast with the Venice Main Street organization approves. She says the need will only grow as downtown is seeing an influx of visitors. "It's growing quite a bit. Like every town did during the recession we had a little bit of a setback but Venice is unique. It's got about 98% independently owned shops."
The parking garage could also have shops on its bottom floor. Between that and more people parking off the main strip it could spread more foot traffic throughout the area. "I think if it doesn't take away space from the stores and is on an empty lot It would be fantastic," says Stupelman.
City leaders say the issue would likely be on a ballot for voters to decide sometime in 2014.