Palm Avenue Parking Garage
Sarasota, FL

This 280,000 square foot project was designed for the City of Sarasota. The challenge for the Palm Avenue Parking Garage and Retail Shops was to design a signature mixed-use building that would become a portrait of the Sarasota community.  The resulting design solution needed to welcome civic input and capture the spirit of the local artistic culture. 

To achieve this, the façade is designed in a curvaceous, free-form sculptural style that reflects the area’s artistic and modern environment. Located one block from Sarasota Bay, the organic contours of the exterior surface resemble the wind-filled sails of a ship. This design gesture perfectly reflects Sarasota’s past and present connection with the waters of the bay. Additionally, the perforated metal “sail” shapes are designed to complement the surrounding architecture along Palm Avenue.

Specifically relating to the programmatic and aesthetic needs of the new parking garage, the “sails” are designed to let natural light and ventilation into all parking levels while screening the vehicles from public view. This is important in creating a welcoming and safe environment for users of the garage while providing a structure that “does not look like a parking garage”.

The ground level of the six-story structure includes a variety of retail spaces. Each storefront is unique, enhancing the pedestrian experience.  Awnings and trees provide shade, while the sails are designed with the street level view in mind.  An outdoor “lobby” serves as the transition from the garage to street level.  A playful, sculptural stair design announces each visitor’s arrival.

Another important design aspect of the garage is its user-friendly layout. Efficient vehicle circulation is achieved by designing slightly angled parking spaces and a wide-open express ramp free of parked cars.  In addition, a one-way traffic flow reduces vehicle conflict and enables easy maneuvering in and out of parking spaces. A simple floor plan, identical on each level, facilitates motorists’ ability to navigate.  The cast-in-place design eliminates shear walls and columns between parking spaces, while an open floor plan with high ceilings creates a bright, airy atmosphere that helps with visitor spatial orientation.  The elevator/stairway area on each floor includes culturally-themed murals (theatre, opera, music, film, and dance), aimed to enhance wayfinding while capturing the spirit Sarasota’s artistic heritage. The parking garage has spaces for 743 cars, slots for 35 motorcycles, and accommodations for 80 bicycles.

The project is designed to reach LEED-CS (Core & Shell) v3 Gold Level (Certification Pending).  Green components include an underground retention vault and cistern to store and treat storm water runoff from the site. A portion of the water is reused for the irrigation system.  Interior materials surpass LEED requirements for off-gassings of VOC’s and other toxic chemicals.  Energy consumption is reduced with LED lighting and an energy management system that only provides artificial light when and where it is needed.  A solar carport is located on the roof and plug-ins for electric vehicles are provided on the first floor.

The result is an iconic, user-friendly, environmentally-responsible design that satisfies the functional, strategic, and aesthetic needs of the City, while contributing to the overall success of downtown Sarasota. 

Photo Credit: Berry Grossman, Perry Johnson, Charles Preston Rawls, Elise Swain, Clyde Robinson Jr.