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Oxford parking garage on the Square has options

Members of the Oxford Downtown Parking Advisory Commission got their first glimpse of how the future parking garage may sit on the site behind the Oxford Square North on Friday.

The commission met in a public meeting with Will Townes, project manager with Howorth and Associates architect firm, that was hired by the Oxford Board of Aldermen last month to work with the city’s Planning Department to develop a Request for Proposal that city leaders hope to advertise by February.

The aldermen decided to build the garage using a design-build method, where one team would handle the entire project. However, state law mandates that an architect is hired to assist with creating the RFP.

The commission devised its own RFP in December before being made aware of the state law. Townes is taking that RFP and “tweaking” it. There is a Jan. 20 deadline to have the RFP finished, approved by the commission and presented to the Board of Aldermen.

The rush comes from city officials wanting to get the construction underway as soon as possible to avoid having to build during two football season. It takes about a year for construction and about six months to hire a design and build team, get all the plans in place and approved by various commissions and have permits issued.

“This needs to be very clean or we’ll be stuck with the lowest bid that doesn’t include everything the city wants,” he said. “We want to make sure we get this (RFP) right.”

Townes had a few areas where he said he needed clarification from the commission, including the size of the garage and presented several options, including a four-story garage with only parking bays and a three-story garage with commercial space underneath.

Tim Akers, who works for McDonald Transportation that manages the Oxford-University Transit system, reminded the commission that the city couldn’t put commercial space legally, but that the aldermen had discussed putting in a small substation for the Oxford Police Department.

“Ninety-nine percent of this structure should be parking,” said Commissioner Mike Harris.

The commissioners agreed the goal was to get as many parking spaces as possible in the garage but still directed Townes to create a small office space on the first floor.

The commissioners also talked about having enough space to provide room for delivery trucks and buses and making sure the north side of the structure, which will face Jefferson Avenue, will have landscaping to be aesthetically pleasing since it faces a neighborhood road that also leads to the Square.

The commission agreed to meet with Townes in one week at noon on Jan. 13 at City Hall to see where he’s at with the RFP and whether or not any adjustments need to be made before it’s presented to the aldermen for their approval in February.

Also during the meeting, Parking Director Matt Davis reported meters took in $49,734 in December and parking officers issued 341 tickets, with 239 being for overtime parking.