Miami Parking Authority halts plans on $14 million mixed-use garage complex
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
A tight credit market has led the Miami Parking Authority to hold off on plans to build a $14 million mixed-use garage to meet downtown's growing parking demand, authority officials say.
The site at 120 NE Second St. is now operating as a surface parking lot the authority manages for the Archdiocese of Miami.
Put aside were plans to build a garage with 450 parking spaces and about 25,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and office space — uses that would adhere to faith-based restrictions set by land-owner Catholic archdiocese.
To be certain the agency gets the best deal it needed the best rates, said Parking Authority Chief Executive Officer Art Noriega, and "this is really not the time to go to market. The rates we would get now are not very competitive."
Even were financing available, he said, another struggling market that would affect the project is retail. Even if construction on the mixed-use garage could begin, he said, it would be difficult to attract retail tenants amidst the recession.
"Without both of those pieces, it doesn't make sense to push the project right now," he said, adding he prefers to "wait for the markets to bounce back."
When the time is right, Mr. Noriega said, the authority will look at such financing options as the bond market or bank loans.
The project was planned as a joint venture to design and build the garage with POM Inc., a subsidiary of the Archdiocese of Miami, and Arbel I LLC.
Originally, Arbel planned to build a residential development on the site but last year agreed to operate the retail component of the mixed-use garage as a subtenant of the parking authority.
Mr. Noriega said he is negotiating with the Archdiocese to extend the date when his agency is to take over the land under a 50-year lease, allowing more time to find adequate financing.
While the original plans haven't changed, he said, the agency must be flexible to what the market dictates when it is ready to move ahead.
More parking spaces downtown could better accommodate residents moving into new condo developments nearby who may have multiple cars and visitors and the overflow of parkers from lots such as College Station Garage at 190 NE Third St.
The garage could also serve retail customers, area office workers and parishioners of the adjacent Gesu Catholic Church.
For now, the authority is busy building the $36 million Courthouse Center Garage at 40 NW Third St. That 11-story garage with 852 spaces is to open in November and offer 4,000 square feet of retail and 40,900 square feet of office space.
The Courthouse Center was financed with general obligation bonds — insured up to Triple A+ pledging agency-wide revenues — the parking authority bonded out for several projects more than a year ago, Mr. Noriega said.
Fred Bredemeyer, the authority's chief operations officer, agrees the agency cannot redevelop the Northeast Second Street property until credit markets open up.
"Until that uncertainty clears there won't be an opportunity."