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City consultant recommends $17 million parking facility

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by Paul Flemming

SBJ Staff

City Council and the Greene County Commission March 30 heard a preliminary report from a Nashville consultant recommending the city's most pressing parking needs could be addressed by a $17 million, 800-space intermodal parking structure to serve Civic Park.

The location of such a facility should be made in conjunction with planning for Civic Park and consider development such as the office building and baseball stadium announced by John Q. Hammons.

Downtown and Government Plaza the area surrounding city offices in the Busch Building, the county courthouse and jail do not face a parking shortage, according to the consultants. Rather, better management of the parking spaces available would relieve what strains exist in those areas.

Corradino Group and Walker Parking Consultants began the study in January. Its presentation to council members and county commissioners reflected two workshops earlier in the year. A final report will be completed in June.

Representatives of the city, county and City Utilities, comprising the Metropolitan Planning Organization, took part in the workshops where suggestions were exchanged and problems discussed.

Larry Strange, who made the consultants' presentation, said participation in those workshops resulted in plenty of input. About 70 written comments were presented, significantly more than are normally received in his experience.

Among the concerns expressed were that a parking structure be located near Government Plaza, a desire not to use shuttle buses and a distaste for paid parking.

Locations at the southwest corner of Central and Jefferson, on Boonville across from the Busch Building and on various corners of Chestnut Expressway and Boonville were suggested by workshop participants.

Strange said that though lack of parking in the Government Plaza area was identified, a survey of parking availability the consultants conducted showed underutilized spaces in the area. Those are not steps from the doors of buildings, but they are usable.

Managing those available lots better for instance, not labeling lots remote, but changing the name and thus the image for higher usage would curb problems, Strange said.

He said that the city and county might, for policy or future development reasons, wish to consolidate surface lots and construct a parking garage. However, short supply of spaces and high demand for them did not require it, according to the usage survey.

Also taken into account in the consultants' decision not to endorse a Government Plaza facility was possible funding for the project. Strange said federal money is available for up to 80 percent of projects that are intermodal hubs. A facility in the area of Government Plaza would be used primarily by employees and customers who would walk directly from their cars to their destinations. Funding depends on users who park and then ride public or non-auto transportation.

That would be the case in a Civic Park facility that shuttled folks who parked there, served as a jumping-off point for bicyclists or was a link in CU's bus routes, Strange said. But to fully succeed, the facility would have to combine purposes.

"To work as intermodal, this should be a hub of activity," Strange said. Inclusion of retail space, for instance, would make the facility more attractive.

The $17 million price tag reflects capital costs for construction and operating costs for 20 years. The estimate is based on a national average cost of $10,000 per parking space for construction and about $500 per space per year for operating such a facility. If revenue is sought from the garage paid parking each space in an 800-space project would have to generate $3.50 per space per day to cover debt service and operating costs.

Corradino Group and Walker Parking Consultants said the first phases of Civic Park would cause an 800-space deficit. Second phase development, including a baseball stadium, would result in a shortage of another 1,380 spaces.

City Manager Tom Finnie said any possible action on the report would be mapped out after the final report is received this summer.

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