Paying for parking on the Drive often feels like paying rent to a greedy slumlord. How can businesses on the Drive survive, thrive and fill the coffers of the City if people cannot come to the Island City because finding a parking space is such a hassle?
And when a spot is found you need a loan from the nearby bank to afford it. The meters are strictly enforced and many people go home each night with upsetting parking tickets. Many do not come back.
Why is Wilton Manors so stubborn on this subject? Take a look at Delray Beach. One of the wonderful things about the “Village by the Sea” is that you can actually walk around the downtown easily after parking your car in one of the many parking garages that pepper the city.
They have the Orange Grove Lot (29 spaces), the Railroad Lot (191 spaces), Monterey House Lot (82 spaces), Frog Alley Lot (23 spaces), Village Lot (40 spaces), Old City Lot (55 spaces), Robert Federspiel Garage (202 spaces - FREE to park Sunday - Wednesday -$5 after 4 p.m. (FREE before 4 p.m.) on Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays), Anchor Park (82 spaces) and many more, too numerous to mention. Got the picture? That’s why the town is packed day and night and business is good.
Maybe something is beginning to seep into the brains of the City Commission. Their solution? City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson pushed for the implementation of a 90-day Park & Ride shuttle along Wilton Drive. According to Ms. Henderson the shuttle would allow employees to park in any city lot and then been taken to another location along the drive. The shuttle would also take patrons between stops allowing them to patronize a variety of business establishments. The route would feature eight stops between City Hall and Richardson Park. The program’s hours of operation would be Thursday’s thru Sundays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The vote came after a recent presentation by Lanier Parking, a contractor who is responsible for running the city’s parking nightmare. It is something but not much. It’s like putting a Xmas bow on a pig.
In the meantime residents and visitors keep waiting for the pie in the sky “parking garage” that is more of a tennis ball being bounced back and forth than anything else.
While there may be disagreements about whether or not The Drive is in decline, one thing that is universally and unanimously agreed upon is that parking remains a problem. The number of empty storefronts with “for lease” and “for rent” signs keep going up in astounding number for a local shopping venue, and the vacancy rate is higher than the national average.
In 2011 a non-profit group of residents and business owners in gay Wilton Manors appealed to city commissioners with a brand new vision for the drive that cuts through the center of the island city, now home to one of the largest LGBT communities in America. The vision was to convert the barren two-lane highway known to locals as ‘The Drive” into a tree-lined thoroughfare, which would include lanes for bicyclists, wider sidewalks, boutique businesses, and increased, more accessible parking.
In customary fashion they received the cold shoulder. The idea wilted and died as everything else related to WM City Hall ultimately does.