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Museum Park Price Hike PDF Print E-mail
Written by Francisco Alvarado, BT Contributor   
July 2017

$40 all-day parking sounds like another public subsidy

SParking_1ince May 7, a day before the grand opening of the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, patrons parking their cars at Museum Park have been hit with a serious case of sticker shock. Rates climbed from $2 an hour to $8 for the first hour and $4 for any fraction of an hour more (up to a $40 maximum) when the science museum, its neighbor the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), and garage operator Park One, LLC decided it was a good idea to jack up the prices for the 444-car garage underneath both venues.

“With the opening of the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, and after mutually conducting market research, rates were adjusted at the jointly owned Museum Park garage to reflect comparable rates in the area,” affirms PAMM spokeswoman Nora Carvajal.

However, the new parking rates will make it even more expensive for the average Miami family to visit the two museums, which already have high admission prices and are heavily subsidized by county taxpayers. The Science Museum charges $28 for adults and $20 for children between ages 3 and 11, although Miami-Dade residents get a 15 percent discount. Annual passes are $65 for individuals and $145 to $195 for families. To enter PAMM, adults pay $16, while seniors, students, and children between ages 7 and 18 pay $12. One-year PAMM memberships range between $55 and $450.

“Charging more for parking is going to hurt them more,” Miami activist Grace Solares tells the BT. “Temporarily, it will make a little more money for the museums, but when people don’t go because of how expensive it is, it’s not going to help them meet the financial threshold the museums need to operate.”

Solares, president of the Urban Environment League of Greater Miami, says the increase in parking rates strongly indicates museum officials are trying maximize every possible revenue stream due to a lack of corporate and philanthropic donors.

“We knew from the beginning that they weren’t going to have enough funds to cover the operational side,” she says. “They didn’t have it before, and they won’t have it in the future. Yet we continue to subsidize the museums.”

Parking_2Indeed, the museums have reaped a significant amount of public resources. For starters, the City of Miami donated a large swath of what was formerly Bicentennial Park to become the current site of both museums. When one considers that a small parcel of land on the Miami River downtown (1.25 acres) fetched $125 million in 2014, the Pérez and Frost museums were given a steal of a deal, says Peter Ehrlich, Scenic Miami founder and Urban Environment League board member.

“These museums each sit on four acres of prime waterfront land,” notes Ehrlich, who is also a real estate investor. “The land is probably even more valuable than the 1.25-acre site.”

The PAMM museum construction was financed with $100 million from a general obligation bond approved by voters to complement a $120 million pledge from private donors -- of which only about half has actually been committed, including $35 million over ten years from condo king Jorge Pérez. The museum was renamed in his honor.

The $305 million Frost museum was built with $165 million in bond proceeds, plus $49 million the county borrowed last year to help finish construction after significant delays and a fiscal crisis nearly halted the project. As part of the $49 million deal, Frost museum leaders agreed to give up a $4 million annual operating subsidy from Miami-Dade. In order to meet a $30 million operating budget for the first 12 months after opening, the science museum must reach a projected 700,000 annual visitors -- roughly triple the attendance at its former home in Coconut Grove.

Pérez museum spokeswoman Carvajal says the museums and Park One conducted market research in January on garages and surface parking lots in the downtown Miami area to determine competitive new rates for the Museum Park garage.

For instance, the Bayside Marketplace garage just south of AmericanAirlines Arena bases its rates on a sliding scale. One hour costs $7, two hours costs $9, three hours costs $10, and a full day costs $20. The garage also offers a $4 flat rate for vehicles that enter after 11:00 a.m. and leave by 3:00 p.m.

The Omni Center garage at 1645 Biscayne Blvd. charges an hourly rate of $6 with a maximum of $30 for a full day. The Miami Parking Authority runs the College Station Garage at 190 NE 3rd St., where motorists are charged $4 for each hour, but a flat $5 rate on weekends.

Carvajal and Frost museum spokeswoman Paola Villanueva both say the two venues have received minimal complaints about the parking rate increase. “We encourage the use of public transportation, carpooling, and ride-sharing services,” Villanueva says. “On our website, we have a whole plan-your-day page that provides directions for Metrorail and Metromover, along with options for other lots and garages around us.”

She says parking is a concern the museums don’t take lightly: “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for our guests, but it’s a work in progress.”

Instructing visitors to find cheaper parking near the museum isn’t the best way to build up attendance, says Grace Solares: “The lots and garages around Museum Park are at least three to four blocks away. And that area near Interstate 395 and Biscayne Boulevard is dangerous with traffic. Are you really going to risk your life and your children’s lives crossing Biscayne Boulevard? No, I don’t think so.”

Ehrlich also notes that raising parking rates to match neighboring parking lot and garage operators doesn’t reflect the mission of what public institutions should be about.

“We’re talking about a 100 to 200 percent price increase, depending how long you stay,” he says. “The museums are not-for-profit. They are acting like a for-profit company when they should be serving the public.”

 

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