On October 8, a Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) committee heard a proposal from a former DIA board member who had resigned the day before. Dane Grey, the founder and CEO of Elite Parking Services of America, proposed that his company take over and expand city parking. The proposal appears to be based on a 2018 consultant’s report that the DIA had funded while Grey was a board member.

The plan

Metered on-street parking on West Adams Street in Downtown Jacksonville.

The Jaxson has reviewed Elite’s proposal, which contains a number of different elements. In general, it would take over all city parking for a 30 year term. This would allow it to set parking rates, which it plans to increase to meet “market conditions” - conceivably a considerable hike. In return, Elite promises:

  • A minimum annual contribution to DIA. This would make up for the parking money DIA would be losing in the transition. In addition to the minimum contribution, Elite proposes contributing an additional proportionate share to DIA if profits increase.
  • Upgrade parking meters and facilities to allow for paying via smart phones. Elite would cover the upgrade costs.
  • Elite would introduce new services that Public Parking currently does not offer, including valet parking and park and ride.
  • A $6 million upfront payment for capital improvement.
  • Elite would expand paid parking operations outside Downtown Jacksonville to Riverside and San Marco.

Riverside and San Marco

The expansion of paid parking into Riverside and San Marco has predictably become the most controversial part of the parking privatization proposal. Elite’s pitch identifies a number of issues that it says are causing problems, including “massive congestion” in Riverside and “increased growth in business and economic development” in San Marco. For both neighborhoods, Elite proposes introducing on-street meters, as well as a valet program and free parking for residents. It does not appear that residents or business owners in either community have been consulted. Judging from the vibrancy of their commercial districts, it also does not appear that either is in great need of publicly or privately managed paid parking to “increase growth in business and economic development” within their boundaries. In recent weeks, The Jaxson has reached out and obtained the following statements from San Marco Preservation Society and Riverside Avondale Preservation regarding their position on the proposal to privatize parking management within their districts:

Elite Parking Services of America’s parking privatization proposal for downtown would also include the company managing parking along San Marco Boulevard. According to a copy of the proposal obtained by The Jaxson, current free on-street parking in San Marco Square could be replaced with paid on-street parking spaces.

San Marco Preservation Society

“The San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS) is not opposed to creative parking solutions — in fact, the San Marco community recently welcomed a novel partnership with an economical, eco-friendly parking alternative through operations with Beach Buggy, which serves the Southbank and greater San Marco area at no cost to users, and is supported by the JTA, merchants association, and preservation society. The SMPS does, however, oppose the current form of the unsolicited Elite Parking Services of America, Inc. proposal submitted to the DIA on 10/7/19.

In San Marco, we collectively and carefully research and weigh the unique needs of our residents, homeowners, business owners, and employees before decisions are made or change is implemented. Any parking services, plans, or regulations implemented in San Marco must be in the best interest of the neighborhood. The solutions should stem from collaboration with and approval from the residents and merchants. The San Marco Preservation Society would welcome a conversation from Elite Parking Services, should they be interested in approaching the San Marco neighborhood with a formal proposal.

The proposal lists services outside of the DIA’s boundaries for “San Marco Blvd” and “San Marco Place.” Discussion of downtown parking solutions and this particular proposal should not include San Marco. The parking conditions, needs, and environment are San Marco is wholly different than that of downtown Jacksonville’s, and should be regarded as such.

If the DIA pursues this parking proposal, the SMPS would encourage the conversation and negotiations not to include the San Marco or Southbank areas. Additionally, if Elite Parking Services would like to reach out to the San Marco neighborhood to offer parking services via a proposal tailored to the specific needs of the San Marco community, the San Marco Preservation Society would be happy to engage the community in its consideration.”

Linzee Ott President