Parking garage issues come up at meeting
By Reid Posey
As has been the case for several months now, last Friday’s meeting of the Downtown Parking Advisory Commission was dominated by discussion of various issues centering on the projected parking garage, which will be constructed on the parking lot behind the Oxford Square North shopping center on North Lamar Boulevard.
After Parking Director Matt Davis presented the monthly parking report, which showed more or less average numbers across the board, Commission Chairman Tom Sharpe discussed his meeting with Demery Grubbs, an adviser with Government Consultants Inc.
Sharpe said that he and a few others met with Grubbs and presented him with a “truncated version” of their revenue model, as they had yet to collect data for the month of June to include in their model.
“I took out all the options except for the ones that we recommended and showed him the revenue, showed him how those projections were conservative, and showed him data for 11 months,” Sharpe said. “Once we get June’s data, we’ll be able to provide data for a whole year.”
Grubbs is scheduled to return around the middle of the month with an analysis of their revenue model and recommendations based on this model, after which Sharpe hopes they can move forward with actual work sessions.
“What came out of that meeting (with Grubbs) was that we could comfortably raise at least 8 million dollars,” Sharpe said. “I hope he comes back with an analysis that says we can raise more than 8 million.”
Mayor Pat Patterson voiced his confidence that they could meet and surpass this goal, feeling that it was a conservative estimate.
Another point Patterson brought up about the incoming parking garage is the pushback he has received from certain individuals whose daily routine, whether because of work or parenting, requires them to come and go from the Square several times a day, as they were concerned that they would have to pay the two-dollar fee for entrance every time they returned to the Square.
One possible solution that was suggested was to make monthly parking passes available for a certain fee to these individuals for whom it would be more financially viable.
Sharpe then brought up another pressing issue regarding the construction of the parking garage — what to do when the city displaces the largest parking lot on the Square while the new garage is being built.
Because there will not be enough spots in other parking lots in the vicinity to absorb this loss of space, Sharpe pointed out that they need to consider this problem as part of the overall cost of building the new garage.
It was also pointed out that this issue might also trickle over and affect the church parking lots around the Square, as more and more drivers will attempt to park in these parking lots.
Sharpe said that the only idea he has been able to come up with is to establish a shuttle service running between an off-Square parking lot and the Square. A couple of suggestions for the pick-up location were the Oxford Conference Center off of Sisk Avenue or even possibly the old hospital on South Lamar Boulevard, since they will have most likely moved to their new location by then.
It was also suggested that they could apply for a transit grant that would cover 50 percent of the operational costs, which would help cover part of the cost of this solution.
Sharpe also mentioned that, although they had considered creating a multi-modal station at the site of the new parking garage that would have created another transfer point for public transit, this idea might not be practical enough to enact after all. Sharpe did say, however, that before taking the idea off the table completely, he would let the professionals take a look at it and make an assessment.
The upcoming traffic study, which will most likely be conducted with the help of Neel-Schaffer Engineering, will hopefully shed more light on this issue, as well as several other logistical issues surrounding the new garage.
Sharpe pointed out that even though the multi-modal station could be a way of receiving more federal funds, they would need to make sure that it would be worth it in a practical sense.
“I think we ought to start from the standpoint of could we effectively use a multi-modal station at that site, not if we could get money from the feds if we put a multi-modal station there,” Sharpe said.
The next meeting of the Downtown Parking Advisory Commission is scheduled for Aug. 5.