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Cocoa Beach: Oasis, Parking, And Height And Density.

Owner Vicki Joyce has announced the locally popular and tourist mecca Oasis Shaved Ice eatery in Cocoa Beach will be closing at the end of the month.

While the demise of the store is sad, the closing illustrates a real problem.

According to Joyce, lack of parking in front of her shop helped kill business because “customers couldn’t find a place to park.” No parking meant no business, “and people wouldn’t stop” for a shaved ice treat.

[….]

She’s looking at alternative — and smaller — locations, but so far the cost is prohibitive, and she’s hoping to still find some way to stay put. A hoped-for small business loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration didn’t come through.

Up until this week, the front two parking spots just outside Oasis were marked with yellow diagonal lines — which was confusing to customers, who thought the yellow lines meant “no parking.” Joyce said she reached out to the city of Cocoa Beach, but because State Road A1A is a state street, it was out of their hands.

First, “out of [the City’s] hands” is a cop out. As the parking lines have been removed, it is not that the City couldn’t get something done, but rather they chose not to. There were other issues and problems in their mind that were more pressing and urgent rather than to stay on the Florida DOT about the lines. Or maybe people were patting themselves on the back for other projects (like the Main Street project – more on that in a moment) than to take seriously the request of Joyce to have an issue that was slowly help kill her business. Unless someone in the City is willing to produce a call log that shows calls to FDOT, and local and state representatives, we have a hard time believing the City was that concerned. If they do produce the logs, then we are more than willing to talk about the people outside of the City that were not responsive to a simple request that was eventually granted.

If Joyce is correct and parking was a cause of the demise of Oasis Shaved Ice, then why is the City and its leaders doing everything they can to make the situation worse?

As for the vaunted “Main Street” project, it appears that the project harmed parking rather than making the parking problem better.

Patty Drake, owner of Casablanca Lounge, said the variety of businesses in Cocoa Beach’s downtown area makes the issue more complex. Some are good with short-term parking while others have longer-term needs.

And while the improvements to Minutemen Causeway helped, it also put parking at more of a premium.

“It’s beautiful now,” Drake said. “But we ended up with less parking than we had to start with.”

Funny how a big, government backed program exacerbates issues rather than make them better, isn’t it?

Oasis Shaved Ice. (image courtesy of CocoaBeach.com)

But here’s the other thing…..

Right now there is a movement to increase height and density within the City. The movement is led by realtors, hoteliers and some on the City Commission. Instead of trying to keep Cocoa Beach with the all the charm, tranquility and attraction of a small town with a great location that can thrive with tourism that many residents want, these folks want to turn Cocoa Beach into South Miami Beach, with daily traffic jams on beachside roads that split the concrete canyons of highrises and condos.

One of those people is Mayor Ben Malik:

Malik said he and city officials are doing what they can on parking issues for Joyce and other merchants, but noted it’s a problem that has been around for a quite a while in Cocoa Beach.

Does “doing what they can” include making the Main Street parking situation worse? Does “doing what they can” include adding more and more people to the City which means more traffic and more parking issues? Does “doing what they can” mean more capacity in hotels and condos which will add to the trash problems and the intoxication problem on the beach? (To say nothing of other areas in the City.) Isn’t “doing what you can,” going to increase the need for more police, fire and other services which will eat up any benefits from increased tax revenues?

If that is “doing what they can,” please stop because you are killing us with your “help.”

The answer to officials seems to be the proposed parking garage. Perhaps it is a start, but the City has already said the parking garage will lose money over the course of the year (which further erodes tax revenues for height and density increases) but even with the parking garage helping to solve some of the parking problems, increasing height and density means more of a strain on the parking garage itself.

What we mean is that assume that on a normal night in the summer, the parking garage will have 20 spaces that can be found that are unoccupied ad any given time for people to park and leave the area. We say that because if you are building a parking garage that is undersized for the parking needs now, you have a white elephant that hasn’t solved anything. The parking garage has to have room to grow and transit room for cars in and out. (anyone who has been stuck in a garage riding up and down looking for a parking space can relate to what we are saying.)

Assume for a moment that height and density goes up and a mere 100 new rooms / condos are created. (We believe that is on the low side for the future, but we want to be fair.)

If the people in those units want to come to events or downtown or wherever, they are going to drive and want to park somewhere. It won’t take long for the parking garage to be at max capacity and the City, businesses and residents to be back where they started with a parking problem.

The closing of Oasis Shaved Ice demonstrates a failure of the City to actually deal with issues that they are creating and want to exacerbate even more with more and more people coming into the City due to increase in height and density.

While City leaders, realtors and hoteliers are looking at the golden egg the tourism goose is laying, they don’t see that the goose itself is being choked by real issues of parking, transit and infrastructure that they don’t want to address.



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