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Curtain rises on BayWalk parking

For 90 days, parking will be free after 5 p.m. and weekends in the garage. Think twice about just parking in the neighborhood.

By MATT DEES

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 26, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Evening and weekend patrons of the BayWalk shopping center will park for free in the center's garage at first but should be wary of parking in nearby neighborhoods.

The garage will cost $1 per half-hour and a maximum of $6 per day before 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, said Phil Oropesa, St. Petersburg parking manager. The garage will be free after 5 p.m. weekdays and all day Saturdays and Sundays for the first 90 days after the complex opens.

BayWalk's developer, the Sembler Co., Muvico Theaters and city officials will re-evaluate the system after 90 days and set permanent rates for the 1,368-space garage, which will serve the complex going up between Second and Third avenues N between First and Second streets.

The garage cost $11.5-million, most of which was paid by the city. Parkway Properties owns one level of the garage that is open to the public on evenings and weekends.

"We're going to recommend either continuing this system or going to some form of validation (for moviegoers)," said Oropesa, adding that city leaders must decide the best method to repay the bonds needed to fund the garage's construction.

After that initial period, Oropesa said, those headed to BayWalk's 20-screen theater might pay a reduced rate of $1 to $2 with proof of purchase of a movie ticket. Parking rates could be "significantly higher" for non-moviegoers or those who stay longer than the time of the movie, he said.

And while it may be tempting to skirt the fees by parking in nearby neighborhoods, city leaders and community activists have implemented a system that will make patrons think twice.

The North Downtown Neighborhood Association (NoDo) persuaded parking officials to reduce the parking limit in the neighborhood from two hours to 90 minutes for non-residents. This, NoDo president Tim Clemmons hopes, will discourage theater customers from trying to squeeze in a movie without paying to park.

Residents who have $15 neighborhood parking stickers would be exempt. Only parking spaces where the two-hour limit currently exists would be affected.

But as a compromise with other downtown merchants, the west side of Beach Drive will remain two-hour parking and will no longer allow those with resident parking passes to stay longer.

Clemmons said both sides were pleased with the deal, which limits BayWalk customers' infringement on the neighborhood while not driving away customers for Beach Drive merchants.

"That seemed like a reasonable compromise," he said.

BayWalk is expected to open in September, and officials hope to have the new neighborhood parking signs and the garage open several weeks in advance.

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