By Wesley Brown
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
The dream of a downtown parking deck achieved a long-sought breakthrough Monday night when the Greenville City Council unanimously approved a plan to build a four-story car park at the corner of Cotanche and Fourth streets.
The city still must bid and award the project to a contractor, but advocates and elected leaders hailed Monday’s vote as a historic move that paved a clear path for Greenville to lure new development, retail and shoppers to downtown.
The 120-by-190-foot garage — to be housed in the frequently underused city-owned Moseley Lot — will provide 256 spaces, cost $3.8 million, take six months to construct and generate more than $175,000 in annual revenue for the city, Greenville Economic Development Officer Carl Rees said.
“This is a transformational project,” Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas said as applause erupted from a handful of downtown retailers in attendance at City Hall.
“A year ago we had barriers around Uptown Greenville to ‘keep off.’ But now, we have embraced the area, and we are turning this place into the center of our city, and I could not be more excited about it.”
While downtown parking garages are common in metropolitan areas across the United States, this will be the first municipal parking deck in Greenville.
City planners expect the effects of the project to send immediate shock waves — both good and bad — throughout the city, including changes to parking policy, how residents perceive the downtown area and, most importantly, the way businesses operate.
Perhaps affected most by the deck will be the redevelopment of a four-story office building on Evans Street, opposite the parking deck. Purchased in partnership with the Greenville Redevelopment Commission, East Carolina University and a local developer, the office building will be the new home to the city’s visitors center and create a demand for an additional 120 parking spaces, along with other redevelopment projects downtown.
With the construction schedules for the Evans Street office building and the parking deck aligning almost perfectly, city staff will try to link the two projects together in hopes of saving money on construction.
Rees, who volunteered to lead a review on downtown parking in the fall of 2010, said his office is exploring a “blended procurement process” in which a development team will build and own a portion of the Evans Street office building on the condition the city can choose the project’s contractor and have that person serve as the construction manager of the parking deck.
Stacking the deck
Burdened with one of the densest downtowns in the east and a love of moving vehicles among college students, a parking deck in downtown Greenville has been under consideration since 2003, with previous councils even setting aside funds in reserve for the construction of a multi-story car park.
Although the balance of that account has climbed as high as $3.8 million, more than half has been exhausted to pay for increased parking at the Sheppard Memorial Library and in the Five Points area.
However, $1.7 million remains, which Rees said makes construction of a parking deck more attainable. With interest rates at or near historic lows, it is expected that the city could qualify for a 20-year loan and rates as low as 3 percent.
The levels and support beams of the parking deck likely will be “pre-cast” in a factory, transported to the site and erected by a crane, with 20-foot stone columns anchoring the 36-foot-tall facility in the ground, reports show.
The garage, projected to have a life span of 50 years and cost about $76,800 a year to operate and maintain, would not have an attendant. It would have pay stations, an elevator, energy-efficient lighting, emergency call boxes and security cameras.
Under the initial plans, the first three floors, which cover 192 spaces, would be leased at $52 a month. The top floor, with 64 spots, would be unlimited metered parking at a rate of 75 cents an hour.
Night and weekend parking would be free.
Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.
via The Daily Reflector.