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Aundra Wallace
Jax Daily Record Friday, Mar. 11, 201612:00 PM EST

Proposed transfer of parking duties to DIA can help with economic deals

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by: David Chapman

Real or perceived, one of Downtown’s biggest issues is urban core parking.

Is there enough of it? Is it being used properly? Are people comfortable with it?

Downtown Investment Authority CEO Aundra Wallace said parking was a constant theme throughout the 43 meetings that developed the organization’s business plan.

The authority always could weigh in on parking issues, but didn’t have final say.

Mayor Lenny Curry’s reorganization plan is changing that.

Outside of re-establishing a Neighborhoods Department, one of the bigger changes in the Curry plan shifts most functions of the Office of Public Parking under DIA.

“We knew this day would come at some point and time,” said Wallace.

The DIA has been a small-scale operation since it was created in late 2012. Wallace came aboard in mid-2013 and leads a staff of four.

The reorganization would shift about 25 employees and the almost $6.2 million public parking system under the authority’s guidance, Wallace said.

It would only be the portions dealing with enforcement, infrastructure and the like — motor vehicle inspections and such are being moved elsewhere.

Despite the influx of additional responsibilities, Wallace said the transition will be manageable. And the timing is right.

DIA Chair Jim Bailey, publisher of the Daily Record, has pushed for the authority to have more involvement with parking.

One of the bigger advantages, he said, will be the economic development aspect of using parking as part of negotiations.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. struck a deal with the city last year that brings close to 1,000 employees to the EverBank Center. Part of the deal included 850 spaces in the Water Street garage at reduced rates.

Another example is a deal with the Jessie Ball duPont Center, the Downtown nonprofit hub in the former Haydon Burns Library.

The city approved 200 parking spaces for the center in the Yates Building garage for $1 a year, which was later increased to 250 through 2020. The DIA supported the decision.

Both Wallace and Bailey said parking can be a tool to lure businesses and people Downtown.

“Any time someone moves Downtown, no doubt it comes up,” said Wallace.

Once the shift is made, Wallace’s plans include reviewing the inventory and past studies along with talking with people in the office who have institutional knowledge. He doesn’t have any initial thoughts on changes.

“I want to see everything first,” said Wallace.

Before any of that happens, though, City Council will have to approve the move as part of the overall reorganization plan.

Council President Greg Anderson, who serves as the DIA liaison to council, said he has been reviewing the public parking shift.

He has some questions. One is how capital improvement, infrastructure and maintenance will be handled. And the other deals with logistics.

“I want to make sure from a management standpoint that they’re ready to take it over,” said Anderson. “It’s an operating unit of the city that greatly affects the future of Downtown. Anyone who comes here deals with it.”

Anderson said he also doesn’t want to see the shift distort the focus or trajectory of the DIA.

He expects other council members to have questions when the reorganization is brought up to committees next week.

Wallace said he is confident the changes won’t impact the DIA’s mission and will actually complement what the organization is trying to do to revitalize Downtown.

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