COLUMBIA — There's plenty of room in the 10-story parking garage that opens Tuesday at Fifth and Walnut streets.
Of 522 permit spaces in the garage, 115 are sold, Columbia Public Works spokeswoman Jill Stedem said Monday.
Stedem said the city isn't worried about selling the remaining permits.
"We will over time," she said. "The garage hasn't even opened yet. Once the garage is open ... then we expect to sell more."
She said other downtown garages weren't sold out when they opened.
Some people with permits in other city garages have been switching their passes to the new garage, but no one has been reassigned, Stedem said. The garage at Sixth and Cherry streets had the most customers switch.
Of the 115 permits sold for the new garage, 30 were purchased by new customers, Stedem said. The cost for permits is the same as at other city garages — $50 and $60 per month for uncovered and covered spots, respectively. Permits for reserved spaces cost $100 per month.
Some uncovered permit spaces on the roof of the new $14 million garage will be used for city vehicles. The Public Works, Water and Light, and Parks and Recreation departments will store vehicles there, Stedem said.
There's still a waiting list for other garages, despite the new space, Stedem said.
She said location and demand from businesses are why other city-owned garages are full and the Fifth and Walnut garage is not. For example, the garage at Eighth and Cherry streets is popular for nearby banks and their employees.
“It comes down to what businesses people work at and how close they want to be to that business,” Stedem said. “As time goes by, I’m sure there will be some people that want to be at the new parking garage.”
Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said having available space in the new garage is attractive to future businesses.
"When large businesses or banks seek downtown Columbia as a potential choice for locating their business, we have to have that space available," St. Romaine said.
The new garage was slated to be finished in July, and the city has been fining Graham Construction $500 a day for the delayed opening, Stedem said.
Some days will not incur fines because of weather; fines will be assessed once the project is completed. There is currently no available tally of how many days the construction firm will be penalized for, Stedem said.
Even when the garage opens, some concrete and sealing work will still need to be done when the weather warms up to finish the project, Stedem said.
Colored glass that will be installed around the northwest staircase, financed by the Percent for Art program, is being imported from Germany and will be installed in April, Stedem said. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place once the glass is installed.
Retail and office space on the first floor of the garage will not be occupied right away, said Mike Brooks, president of Regional Economic Development Inc. REDI, which is moving into about one-third of the 13,500 available square feet, will solicit construction bids around the end of March.
REDI estimates it will cost about $350,000 to occupy the new space. Brooks said the organization hopes to relocate in July or August.
REDI had sent a grant request to former U.S. Sen. Kit Bond to help build a downtown business incubator in the space, Brooks said, but the grant was not approved.
Increased parking meter fines also take effect Tuesday. Minimum city parking meter fines will go up from $5 to $10. For fines not paid within 15 days, the price will increase from $15 to $25. The higher fines are expected to generate an additional $100,000 a year.
St. Romaine said the fine increase is not all about more revenue. The city hopes the increase will free up metered spaces downtown more quickly.
"At five bucks, it wasn't really serving as a deterrent," St. Romaine said.