The Fernando Noriega, Jr. Palm Ave. Garage: A New Feature in Ybor City


The Fernando Noriega, Jr. Palm Ave. Garage: A New Feature in Ybor City

Ybor City is one of only three National Historic Landmark Districts in Florida and was once the “Cigar Capital of the World.” It was a Latin-based community comprised of many socially significant buildings. Wrought-iron balconies, brick-lined walkways, cobblestone streets and old cigar factory buildings provide a glimpse into an age rich with culture and history. Today, Ybor City is Tampa’s No. 1 shopping, dining and evening entertainment destination. One of the many strengths of the area is that everything is within walking distance once you park your car.
But new parking was needed, mainly to accommodate continued growth of Ybor’s entertainment district and the campus of Hillsborough Community College. So the new Fernando Noriega, Jr. Palm Avenue Garage was planned, designed to accentuate the pedestrian nature of this historic area.
Exterior appearance. The exterior design of Palm Avenue Garage employs visual references to classical details found in the landmark historic character of Ybor City. As such, the exterior design was critical to the acceptance of the garage by both the Barrio Latino Committee, the community and, ultimately, the end users.
A brick facade and bricked arches with precast concrete sills successfully blend the garage into the surrounding area. A charming steel bridge reminiscent of 19th century architecture, links the two halves of the garage at the third and fourth levels. Steel stair towers that compliment the bridge design are indicative of craftsmanship of the late 1800s and resemble urban fire escapes, often seen in
that era.
Exterior lighting. Globe light fixtures, consistent with period gas lighting, are affixed to the side of the brick veneer. The lighting is both functionally efficient, as well as, aesthetically appealing. The garage’s colonnade has high light levels for safety, but the fixtures were chosen to provide a strong architectural aide memoire.
Structural features. An extensive study was undertaken to determine the most appropriate structural system. An all-precast structure was compared to a cast-in-place post-tensioned system. Due to cost constraints, site restrictions and speed of construction, and most particularly due to the extensive use of brick exterior, the all-precast structural system was selected. This system allowed the brick to be embedded in the precast, speeding the erection time and reducing the time to place the brick.
The vehicle bridges connecting levels three and four are free-standing structural steel structures. The structural truss system replicates the ornate architectural steel used extensively throughout the Ybor City District.
Future provisions. The structures are designed with expansion capability to add two more floors, providing space for 1,800 cars.
Palm Ave. Garage provides parking for 1,200 cars for a construction cost of $11 million, equating to a cost of $9,166 per space. Given the extensive use of brick, the ornate elevator towers, exposed steel, corner stairs, and the fact that this garage was designed for future levels, the cost per space was remarkably low.
Public areas. Designed with an elaborate brick paver system in keeping with the area, a pedestrian colonnade on the ground level is a focal point of the garage. The sidewalks are designed for use as pedestrian walkways during normal hours/days and for commercial use during festivals. A decorative iron railing enhances the design and supports artwork and other material for festivals.
Wayfinding. Period-looking, backlit signs direct users to the garage. Several other signs, mounted against the facade, direct traffic to entrance/exit points. The vehicular signs in the garage use large 6-inch reflective letters to provide simple but effective direction to the facility’s customers.
Revenue collection. Sixteen equipment lanes provide ticket issuing machines and booths for visitor and proximity card readers for contract users.
Maintenance. The tropical climates of the Tampa Bay area and the close proximity to the salt water of the Gulf of Mexico required extensive maintenance planning. An all-precast structure consisting of 10-foot-wide pre-topped double tees, load-bearing precast lateral walls at the interior ramps, precast columns and spandrel panels on the exterior, provide a high degree of long-term durability for this structure. Brick was used extensively on the facade of the garage, and was set into the precast panels in the precast plant.
All exposed structural steel embeds for the precast were galvanized.
A high-durability, three-coat painting system was used on the “ironwork” to minimize the long-term maintenance required.
Security. Security is a high priority in this all-night entertainment district. It was decided to keep the garage as open as possible and focus the design efforts on passive security. “Hiding” areas were minimized to the greatest extent possible, and an aggressive lighting program was put into place. An elaborate wrought iron fence was erected to keep pedestrians from entering these busy vehicular areas. And call assistance stations are located at all elevator and stair towers.
Safety was designed into the facility; the placement of vertical transportation was positioned to minimize vehicle/pedestrian conflicts.
Geometrics. The Palm Avenue Parking Garage was built on two city blocks with the upper levels connected by two bridges. Each garage has three bays with an internal ramp and flat floors around the perimeter. Each bay is column free with a bay spacing of 62-feet and 64-feet wide at the perimeter and ramp bays respectively. Bay widths were chosen to give the garage generous turns into and out of the spaces and facilitate rapid loading/unloading in this busy entertainment district. Each stall measures 9 feet and the ramps are sloped at 4.7 percent on typical levels.
The columns are set at 9 feet on center, minimizing the interference of the columns into the spaces. The garage is very generous to the user with a square-foot efficiency of approximately 350 square feet per space.
Vehicle flow. To maximize vehicular flow in the garage, the two ramps give the garage two separate up and down circuits, effectively separating the traffic into two 600-space garages rather than one large 1,200-space garage.
Pedestrian flow. The walking route between the parking space and elevators has no intervening walls making it easy to navigate. Located at the ends of the garage, the elevators are separated from the traffic flow, ensuring pedestrian safety in this often busy corner.
Internal lighting. The Palm Ave. Garage is illuminated internally by metal halide lighting system. All lighting is designed to meet industry standards for lighting intensity and uniformity, and the elevator vestibules and entrance/exit areas exceed industry standards.
The Fernando Noriega Jr. Palm Avenue Garage not only satisfies its functional requirements, but it embraces the historic character of the surrounding and culturally significant neighborhood. It is an important contribution to the revitalization of this active community.

Jerry S. Marcus is Executive Director of Walter P. Moore’s Parking Consulting Services Group. He can be reached at

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Garage Construction Team:
Joint funding was provided by the City of Tampa and Hillsborough Community College.
H. Gene Bressler, Parking Manager
Dept. of Public Works – Parking Division City of Tampa
Parking Consultant:
Jerry S. Marcus
Walter P. Moore
Sol J. Fleischman, Jr., A.I.A.
FleischmanGarcia Architecture
Richard Temple, P.E.
Walter P. Moore
Robert Curren/John DeCaro
Beers Skanska

Article contributed by:
Jerry S. Marcus
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