Baptist to build Southbank parking garage

Baptist to build Southbank parking garage
Rendering of new Baptist parking garage slated to be built on the surface lot adjacent to Wolfson Children’s Hospital, as seen from the corner of Palm Avenue and a relocated Baptist Way.

In addition to the towering Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center building, which is currently being constructed on San Marco Boulevard in North San Marco, the folks at Baptist Health may soon be engaged in another sizable building project on the Southbank side of Interstate 95 near Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

In a meeting held Oct.20 at City Hall, the Downtown Development Review Board unanimously granted conceptual approval, with a few conditions, on plans presented by Baptist Medical Center to build a parking garage on surface parking lot A across the street from Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

With the plans, Baptist intends to spruce up the existing parking lot which lies on land bordered by Gary Street and I-95 to the south, Palm Avenue to the west, Prudential Drive to the north and San Marco Boulevard to the east. The proposed parking garage will sit on land bordered by Prudential Drive, San Marco Boulevard, Palm Avenue and a new, private road named Baptist Way, which will separate the garage from a smaller surface lot to its south. The surface lot will border Gary Street/I-95, Palm Avenue, San Marco Boulevard and Baptist Way.

The proposed 817,000-square-foot parking structure will comprise seven stories and accommodate 2,247 cars, including 33 handicapped spaces. No public parking will be available; it will be reserved exclusively for Baptist and Wolfson Children’s Hospital employees, patients and some employees who work for companies housed in the Aetna Building, said Frank Brooks, Chairman of FreemanWhite, an architectural firm in charge of the project for Baptist.

The entrance and exit to the garage will be at the corner of Palm Avenue and the newly formed Baptist Way, where a park-like lawn and shade trees will be installed and a louvered awning will provide shade along a walkway that extends along the west side in front of the garage. A potential sky bridge spanning Palm Avenue near the intersection of Prudential Drive, connecting the garage with Wolfson Children’s Hospital has also been drawn into the plans.

The garage will be constructed of precast concrete panels and curtain wall elements to complement the surrounding structures, while metal sun shading devices will accent the west façade. Also on the side facing Palm Avenue, LED bands will be installed across the façade to create an abstract “river of light” across the west elevation.

To the east along San Marco Boulevard, the garage will have a “saw tooth” design and a layered landscape buffer and palm trees will screen the new, smaller surface parking lot. The sidewalk improvements will mirror what is called for in the San Marco historic district.

Along Prudential Drive to the north and along San Marco Boulevard to the east, the architects are hoping to use black vinyl-coated chain-link fence and landscaping, Brooks said.

Monumental signage will be placed on the towering corners of the garage, Brooks said.

Although the board raved about the west side of the garage facing Palm Avenue and Baptist Hospital, several members were less than happy with the garage’s appearance on the other three sides. “It is obvious the budget on your garage diminishes as you get away from Palm Avenue,” said Craig Davisson, calling the sides facing Prudential Drive and San Marco Boulevard “lackluster.” Davisson also said he felt the architects should be more cognizant that 90 percent of the traffic would view the structure from San Marco Boulevard and I-95. “The garage is turning its back on the Southbank,” he said.

Christian Harden shared similar concerns, particularly on the south side where the structure faces Gary Street and I-95. “We have 75,000 people driving by the city and will see a blank horizon,” he said. “It’s a gateway. I think the shadowbox you’ve created on the west is brilliant and the lighting is great. I think it looks terrific. It may not be realistic to match this on the south elevation, but that to me is what’s needed. It will look wonderful from Baptist’s perspective, but to everyone else who drives by it, it would be nice to have something that is more visually appealing.”

By Marcia Hodgson

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