COLUMBIA—Debate continued Monday night at the City Council work session over the design of the $10 million to $15.5 million parking structure that will be built on Walnut Street between Fifth and Sixth streets.
Proposed designs of the parking structure were presented by Walker Parking Consultants and Peckham & Wright Architects.
The design of the building is controversial because of the number of purposes it will fulfill. It is meant to house parking for police, parking for the public and space for businesses on the ground floor.
Public Works Director John Glascock addressed Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala's concerns about the use and height of the building, which will be similar in size to the Hitt Street parking garage.
"We gave you some numbers about who is going to park there, and it's going to be pretty full as soon as we open it," Glascock said.
There will be approximately 600 parking spaces in the structure, and research completed in 2001 indicated a need for 635 spaces in the area of the intersection.
One of the council's main concerns was the number of entrances and exits that will be available to drivers in the parking structure. Four of the six proposals for the design of the structure provide only one exit and entrance. The other options allow for two entrances and one exit.
Council members said that the additional entrance might be converted into an exit in an emergency situation.
Another concern was how traffic will flow within the structure. Because the building design is eight stories tall, a single-ramp two-way traffic design would take a driver approximately 8 minutes to travel top to bottom while going 5 mph.
A design with two separate one-way ramps would take a maximum of 4 minutes to travel. It would provide drivers the option to switch ramps and follow the opposite stream of traffic, making for a shorter drive in the garage.
Dave Ryan of Walker Parking Consultants noted that this second choice was a more "user-friendly option."
It allows for approximately 40 more parking spaces than the single-ramp design.
Despite the need for more parking in the area, Skala also voiced concerns about what it will mean for the city to host businesses, especially in what he termed "such an imposing structure."
City Manager Bill Watkins agreed with Skala's concerns about hosting businesses in a city structure.
"The city is not in the leasing business; we don't do it well," Watkins said. "It's not something that's in our core mission, and we ought to farm it out or bring in a partner to do that because they can do it better."
The controversial nature of the project remains a cause for concern for some council members.
"I just want to throw that out there to be really sensitive to the kind of things I think we're going to encounter as we move forward with this, regardless of what decisions we make," Skala said.
A public hearing and vote will be scheduled for this fall, and the goal for beginning construction is by the first of the year.