COLUMBIA — Construction on the Short Street garage and the Regency Hotel will now begin in November.
Hotel developer Dave Parmley had previously said construction would begin in June or July. The garage, being built by the city, and the hotel are being built at the same time. The city could not meet that timeline, according to an April 14 memo sent to Interim City Manager Paula Hertwig Hopkins.
Key dates from the Short Street garage timeline:
Late April/early May — Council work session on proposed design
May 2 — Resolution setting a public hearing on proposed parking structure
May 16 — Public hearing on proposed parking structure (assuming approval of schematic documents). Start of design development phase.
July 8 — End design development phase
July 11 — Start construction document phase
Sept. 16 — End construction document phase
Sept. 30 — Two weeks for city review
October — Project ready for bidding
November — Bidding phase ends/construction begins
The City Council asked Parmley's attorney, Robert Hollis, in early March if it could delay the decision to purchase land for the garage. Hollis told the council putting off the decision would be detrimental to the project and it would be "a disaster to try to construct a garage after the hotel is already in place."
"If we waited until June, it would have put us behind in the process," Parmley said.
Although the construction date is set, many key elements for the completion of the garage and hotel, which is partially funded by a $2.3 million tax increment financing agreement with the city, still need to be decided.
Finding a franchise
Parmley said his company, Broadway Lodging LLC, has applied for a DoubleTree hotel franchise. He said they applied for the franchise partly because it's a part of the Hampton hotel family. He owns four Hampton hotels.
He also said they will know within the next 30 to 45 days whether the DoubleTree application is approved.
Parmley said the chances of the application being accepted are very high, and all indications point to DoubleTree being approved. The DoubleTree by Hilton call their hotels "upscale" and are in more than 200 cities. Parmley said the DoubleTree's boutique-style hotels would fit well in downtown Columbia.
St. Romaine said he also would like to have a guarantee at the June 6 City Council meeting that the Regency Hotel redevelopment will move forward.
"I want to try to make sure that he (Parmley) has a firm legal commitment from a franchisor," St. Romaine said.
Determining parking fees
The new garage will require an increase in on-street parking meter rates. The City Council tabled a bill to increase the rates Monday.
St. Romaine said the mayor wanted to push the bill back to provide the Community Improvement District board with additional information about the increases. City staff will be meeting with the board at least twice more to discuss the options for increasing parking fees, including raising the rates to $0.60 per hour from $0.30 per hour.
The target date to vote on the increased parking rates is June 6, he said.
"We're trying to fit everything into this time frame," St. Romaine said. "My hope is that everything will come together at the first meeting in June."
Exploring space options
St. Romaine said having a November construction date will allow for discussion to continue concerning retail space in the garage.
"From a positive standpoint, one of the pros is that (retail space) brings in additional revenue that can help pay off the bonds," St. Romaine said. "The other benefit is the fact that it provides an active storefront along Walnut that would add to the vitality to that block."
St. Romaine said a negative standpoint that has been discussed is the idea of the city spending taxpayer dollars to compete with private enterprises. He also said if retail space is not added, other ideas for the garage will be considered, such as installing a streetscape or park.
"There are other options than just building a wall," St. Romaine said. "Council will ultimately have that decision."
Placing the garage
Another proposal that will be discussed is whether Short Street will become a dead end, St. Romaine said.
At a stakeholders meeting Tuesday, St. Romaine said 20 people supported making the Short Street garage a through street.
"Based upon a straw poll, it was unanimous," St. Romaine said.
If Short Street goes through the garage, the street can be maintained as a regular street for pedestrians and cars, St. Romaine said.