Construction crews have begun working on a parking lot expansion that will add 73 spaces and should ease parking congestion at the Downtown at the Gardens mall after the work is complete in mid-November.
The parking expansion on the southwest side of the mall near the Whole Foods Market and the Yard House and Cabo Flats restaurants is being done on 0.28 acres of city-owned land that will be deeded to mall owner Berman Enterprises after the company completes its end of the deal — building a right-turn lane on Kyoto Gardens Drive that should make it easier for westbound drivers to turn north on Alternate A1A.
The city council agreed to swap the strip of land for the parking lot for the turn-lane construction on July 16. Deed restrictions require the land to be used only for parking.
“The addition of these parking spaces will take Downtown at the Gardens’ available parking to over 2,400 free spaces,” said Jeffrey Berman, vice president of Berman Enterprises, which has owned and operated the mall since 2009.
Parking has been an issue at the 50-store mall since it opened in 2005. A fourth story was added to the parking garage on the north end of the mall in 2007, expanding its capacity to 900 vehicles.
Still, some employees working on the west side of the mall say they come to work early to find a parking spot on weekends. And the mall still uses the Gosman property across Kyoto Gardens Drive for valet parking when needed.
Construction of the right-turn lane on Kyoto Gardens Drive is expected to begin in January and should take about three months to complete, City Engineer Todd Englesaid. The flow of traffic is not expected to be interrupted during construction, Engle said.
Engle said the turn-lane work is being delayed until early next year so the roots of live oak trees can be pruned for relocation. The oak trees will remain planted until it’s time to transplant them in the Kyoto Gardens Drive right of way. Two of the trees will be moved back into the mall parking lot.