By AJ Cross
Photo: Photo of actual tow sign in the parking lot of the Shoppes of Wilton Manors
For years, the Shoppes of Wilton Manors have been the center of the “Gay Strip” in the city. It is a one-stop location for boys and girls to hold hands proudly and enjoy a slice of Humpy’s Pizza or grab a Java Boys Latte. You can bar hop without leaving the plaza by going from Alibi to Boom. With the emergence of other entertainment venues such as Sidelines, Bills, Manor, Matty’s etc. the draw to the drive has significantly increased.
With the influx of LGBT travelers and consumers, a parking spot in town has become more valuable than gold. The perception for so many is that the Shoppes house a public parking lot when in actuality it is not. It is a privately owned lot, which the businesses pay rent for. The dilemma is that when someone wants to park to go to Chic Optique to pick up contact lenses or grab a cup of coffee
or some sushi, they have to drive in circles and more often than not, they finally give up on finding a parking space and as a result businesses are losing revenue.
According to some business owners in the plaza, people that are not shopping at their stores, partying at their clubs or sweating through a workout at their gym, are taking the parking spaces. Simply put, people are parking and then going to other destinations.
The business owners in the plaza are frustrated and at a loss as to how to ensure that their customers can find a parking spot, while not going to extreme measures.
Many people feel that it is finally time for the City of Wilton Manors to do what should have been done years ago and create a public parking facility.
The Plaza management company has brought in a new towing policy. Several people have already been introduced to the drama of having their vehicles towed.
I have spoken with at least seven people that not only had their vehicles towed, but also indicated that they did patronize a business in the plaza only to find out that their car was gone. So the question they ask is “why was my car towed?”
After further research, I learned that there is a monitoring service that works in conjunction with the towing company.
So, now it’s basically your word against that of the tow-truck driver or monitor and they have the leverage every time, be-cause they have your car.
I do not think the solution is to send the message that if you come to Wilton Manors for your vacation, or if you are local and want to come and have a great time, that you might be faced with having to cough up $100 on the spot to pay off the tow-truck driver who already has your precious vehicle on a flat bed – especially in this hard economy.
With nightclubs and businesses continuing to sprout up all over downtown Miami, Wilton Manors has to hold on to the title of “Gay Mecca” now more than ever. Wilton Manors has never been a pay-to-play city and we should all work together to keep it that way.