COLUMBIA — The Special Business District said during its meeting Tuesday evening that it would create a committee to look into increased parking meter rates.
The meeting led to questions about the financing and parking space issues of the proposed Short Street parking garage.
“What was on the council agenda was just the purchase of the lot," said Carrie Gartner, executive director of the district. "That implies the garage is going to be built, which implies parking rates will go up.”
Gartner said an operations committee comprising various members of the district would be created and possibly hold its first meeting Thursday.
“What I told council is that we can actually put together a committee to review parking rates,” Gartner said. “We’ve got less than two weeks to come up with a recommendation.”
Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine told the district's board about raising metered parking prices from the current $0.30 per hour to $0.50 or $0.60 per hour downtown, citing Columbia as having one of the lowest parking meter rates in the state given the downtown traffic.
“All of these increases don’t need to occur right now,” St. Romaine said. “The Short Street garage is not going to be completed until early 2013, so we can probably phase the increases in over the next two to three years.”
St. Romaine also said not only the Regency Hotel, but also Stephens College and the upcoming apartment complex on Walnut Street and College Avenue have shown interest in leasing spaces in the garage.
The Short Street parking structure would be four stories, have 300 spaces and be 300,000 square feet. St. Romaine said it would not be difficult to have more than 225 spaces under long-term leases before the structure was even finished being built.
Members of the board questioned whether a larger parking structure should be built because of the multitude of spaces that were potentially going to be leased. The board unofficially decided, however, that Columbia residents would most likely be opposed to another large parking structure being built.