DESTIN — The development order for HarborWalk Village, including the Emerald Grande, required the developer to provide parking spaces for the general public.
The 2003 order, however, “doesn’t provide that they have to be free,” Deputy City Manager Steve Schmidt said Friday.
On June 15, HarborWalk officials began charging visitors $10 each to park at HarborWalk’s lot and portions of its adjacent parking garage where motorists had grown accustomed to parking for free.
“They’re providing public parking spaces, but they’re charging for them," Schmidt said. "We never specified that they had to be free, so they’re technically meeting the parking requirements.”
About one-third of the 1,150 parking spaces at the lot and garage are reserved for Emerald Grande owners and their guests.
“There’s reserved parking for the owners, and everything else presumably is public parking,” Schmidt said. “The Emerald Grande was part of the overall development, and the development order was for all of HarborWalk.”
The city’s parking requirements are calculated on various uses of a property. For example, the development order for HarborWalk Village included a requirement to provide 800 parking spaces for its almost 200,000 square feet of retail space.
Schmidt noted that AJ’s Seafood and Oyster House on the harbor began charging a parking fee last year.
“As a public restaurant and bar, they have to provide public parking spaces, and they did,” he said. “But no one said anything about (AJ’s owner Alan Laird) charging for the parking.”
The day the $10 fee began being charged, HarborWalk Hospitality Chief Operating Officer Paul van Leeuwen said that HarborWalk’s 650 employees were being strongly encouraged to park at one of the nearby city lots, and that HarborWalk would pick up the tab. That frees up prime spaces for guests, he said.
At the city’s pay-to-park 51-space Zerbe Street and 146-space Marler Street lots, motorists are charged $1 for the first hour and .50 cents for each additional hour.
The City Council soon could consider whether to enter a public/private partnership with a developer to add a pay-to-park parking garage at one of those lots.
Schmidt said the city received one response to its request for proposals for the potential garage project.
“We plan to review it early next week and then take it to the City Council,” possibly on July 2, he said. “We’ll be looking to negotiate with that public/private partnership proposer to see what we can do. The paradigm is changing as we speak.
“When we proposed this (garage), we put our discounted parking in place (at the two city lots). But then HarborWalk started charging $10 to park after we received this proposal, and they pushed all of their employees off-site, which dramatically changed the demand for parking.”
In addition to the city’s potential garage, Schmidt said Destin officials are working on making the city lot between the Zerbe Street lot and Destin Memorial Cemetery off Sibert Avenue a pay-to-park lot.
It will have about 50 parking spaces and could open by August, Schmidt said.