COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council tabled a proposed agreement Monday to purchase land downtown to construct a parking garage on Short Street.
If the City Council approves buying the land from Broadway Lodging LLC for $1.25 million at a future meeting, the city will build a $7 million parking garage on the property. Customers from the Regency Hotel redevelopment and other nearby businesses would primarily use the garage. At its last meeting, the council approved tax-increment financing assistance for the hotel.
The garage would have 300 spaces, of which Broadway Lodging would lease 100 for the hotel. At least 25 percent of the spots would be metered parking.
In a 45-minute discussion, the council and city staff discussed how the city could pay for the garage. Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romainementioned the possibility of raising the price of metered parking downtown, citing Columbia's low rates compared to other cities. St. Romaine also talked about the possibility of extending the hours on parking meters downtown.
Mayor Bob McDavid, who said earlier Monday he would not vote on the bill without more financial details, supported the decision to table the issue.
"What we've learned tonight is that the owners of the Regency intend to build a boutique hotel that is going to be a gem of the city whether we put a parking garage in or not," McDavid said. "Secondly, we've learned that there is not enough money in the Parking Utility to build this garage without parking (fee) increases."
In an earlier Missourian report, McDavid said the Fifth and Walnut garage is going to deplete cash flow for the Parking Utility. Parking meter revenue, which brings in roughly $800,000 annually, will be largely used to pay for the new Fifth and Walnut garage.
McDavid repeatedly said that if the agreement was approved at Monday's meeting, the city would be in effect passing a recommendation for substantial parking fee increases without input.
"If we pass this parking garage, we are raising parking meter fees," McDavid said.
St. Romaine said government is responsible for supplying parking spaces for businesses. He gave the example of Commerce Bank, which was willing to do renovations downtown because of parking availability.
"We have been subsidizing these garages since we started building the first one behind the City Hall 20 to 25 years ago," St. Romaine said.
St. Romaine said the indirect impact of parking garages usually goes unnoticed.
"When (residents) come downtown, they spend money in bars and restaurants and movie theaters," St. Romaine said. "As a result of that, those sales taxes come back to the city."
Robert Hollis, attorney for Broadway Lodging, said there wasn't a set date to begin construction on the hotel but said delaying a decision on the garage was detrimental to the Regency project.
"It would be a disaster to try to construct a garage after the hotel is already in place," Hollis said.
When McDavid asked Hollis if the developers could wait a month for the decision, Hollis said they needed an answer in two weeks.
Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl said the Parking Utility is estimated to lose money over the next few years. He said he wanted to see how raising parking-related fees would help.
"I would like to get a commitment from the (downtown Special Business District) to look into parking fees," Kespohl said.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said she is anticipating a work session to look at parking needs in the wake of the Fifth and Walnut parking garage opening. She added she hadn't seen sufficient information to justify a Short Street garage.
"The Regency owner has said all along he doesn't need a parking structure for building what he needs to build," Hoppe said.
The City Council will review the proposed ordinance at its March 21 meeting.
At Monday's meeting, the council asked for a recommendation from the Special Business District Board on the garage. The Special Business District Board meets Tuesday at 4 p.m., and the Short Street garage is on the agenda. But because the board only meets monthly, Executive Director Carrie Gartner plans to ask the board to have an extra meeting to continue working on a response for the City Council.
"I can commit to recommending to my board that we have a special meeting within two weeks," Gartner said. "The decision will be up to them, but that might help with the time line."