GRAYTON BEACH – Improvements to what is now an unpaved public parking lot on Walton County Road 283 near Walton County Road 30A are designed for portability in case the parking lot could one day accommodate a parking lot.
This was part of the information shared at a public workshop Wednesday on proposed parking improvements. In addition to the paving, upgrades are planned to include a main building including an indoor waiting area for shuttle service, a covered area under which buses can board, outdoor toilets and showers to accommodate visitors to the shuttles. nearby beaches.
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More details on the main building, paprking lot
This main building is designed primarily for visitors to the area, according to a concept plan by Santa Rosa Beach architect Russell Johnson, who works with DRMP Inc., the county’s contracted engineering firm, on the plan. concept of parking. area.
The building will feature indoor and outdoor benches as well as a kiosk where people can get information from the Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC) on attractions and even buy souvenirs.
A secondary toilet and storage structure is also planned for the site. This facility is expected to be located next to a section of the parking lot that will remain unpaved and is primarily intended to serve company employees along and near the CR 30A corridor.
Both buildings are designed in the ‘coastal cottage’ style, with clapboard siding and metal roofs, which define much of the architecture of the area.
Beyond the building, the parking lot is expected to contain 118 spaces as well as housing for a handful of recreational vehicles and golf carts, as well as electric vehicle charging stations.
No specific costs were calculated for the project, which would be funded with some of the millions of dollars in revenue collected each year through a 5% “bed tax” paid by visitors staying at accommodation in the southern county. .
TDC acquired the land about five years ago from a developer who had planned to install a hotel on the site. The tourist agency has been using it for parking for a few years.
Context: Plans discuss 30A parking structure, alternative modes of transportation
What are the next steps?
The next step in the process, according to Brian Kellenberger, TDC’s director of beach operations, will be to present an initial design proposal to the Walton County Board of Commissioners for review. If the commissioners approve the proposal, further design work will be done for the commissioners’ review, with the commission ultimately deciding whether or not to proceed with the procurement and construction.
A potential timeline could see the project going up for tenders early next year, with construction expected to be completed by next fall, Kellenberger said at Wednesday’s forum.
As currently envisioned, the upgraded parking lot is intended to become a hub for a still envisioned transit system that would be designed to significantly reduce vehicle traffic obstructing the CR 30A and other traffic lanes. communication, especially during the tourist season.
A shuttle currently connects the land to the nearby community of Grayton Beach, which attracts a large number of visitors. The land had also served as a stop for a pilot transit program that took visitors and local workers along the 30A, but this initiative was hampered by difficulties locating drivers and issues with vehicles. used vehicles purchased for the initiative, according to Kellenberger.
Still, Kellenberger said on Wednesday that a system that is successful in getting workers and day visitors to park and use shuttles to get to their final destination will prove its viability. And from there, Kellenberger added, “We believe the seven-day visitor and the resident, recognizing that they now have a transit system that has the two main components of frequency and consistency … Park their car and leave it in their place. housing or their home and will use the shuttle system.
“I think that makes sense, because the two things that drive people to use public transport are congestion on the roads… and the lack of parking spaces at resorts or the shopping and commercial districts where they are. render, “he said.
But, as Kellenberger also noted, the parking lot has also been identified as a potential location for parking as part of a county-wide mobility plan currently under review. If this proposal materializes, it is possible that it will affect the improvements made to the parking lot in the meantime.
And so, under Kellenberger’s leadership, the structures are designed to be portable so they can be moved to serve another transit hub.
“There’s a lot of work between the thought process and the actual product (a transit system) that goes up and down at 30A,” Kellenberger said, “but we’re working on it, and that’s why we have decided that this building will be a public transport building, a restroom building, and a space for a tourism development kiosk where we can disseminate our information …. “
There was little public comment at Wednesday’s uncrowded forum, but concerns were expressed about the architectural rendering of large tour buses waiting for passengers.
Kellenberger acknowledged the problematic nature of installing tourist buses on the two-lane CR 30A and said no decision had been made on what types of shuttles to use for a mass transit system.
Overall, however, Kellenberger expressed some optimism about the parking lot’s development plans.
“I feel comfortable, we will move forward.”