COLUMBIA — The City Council is poised to approve parking rate increases downtown to pay for construction of the proposed Short Street garage.
Last week, the Community Improvement District issued its recommendations for how to increase parking revenue to help pay for the garage. It suggested the city:
- double the fees at downtown street meters from 30 cents to 60 cents per hour.
- increase the fees at meters near MU's campus from 50 cents to 75 cents per hour.
- raise the cost of surface lot permits from $40 to $50 per month.
- establish free parking on Saturdays in all city garages.
In a memo to the council included in an agenda packet for its Monday meeting, Public Works Director John Glascock and his staff endorsed the meter and surface lot increases.
City staff also wants to to charge $35per month for permits in the Fifth and Walnut streets garage from July 1 to Dec. 31 in an effort to fill the garage, which opened in February but remains largely vacant. Finally, it is recommending the city extend parking meter hours from 6 to 9 p.m.
The council is scheduled to vote on the measures Monday evening.
Mayor Bob McDavid said that an increase in parking rates should be the final step toward approving construction of the Short Street garage and that he would consider moving the Community Improvement District's proposal until after construction has been approved.
The proposed parking rate increases would raise $630,375 per year, according to documents provided by the Community Improvement District. The city's goal is to raise at least $600,000 per year to finance the garage.
Hotel developer David Parmley said Thursday he is within 10 days of securing a franchise agreement with DoubleTree by Hilton for the proposed development at the site of the Regency Hotel. The city said it would not move forward with construction of the Short Street garage until Parmley has a franchise agreement in place.
Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the proposed parking rate changes would probably be approved.
"We're hopeful the city will break ground on the garage by December, with early 2013 as a goal for completion," St. Romaine said.
Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said the council should pass the parking rate increases even if Parmley's franchise agreement and the construction of the Short Street garage fall through.
"They're not dependent on each other," Thornhill said. "Whether he builds the hotel and the garage follows or not, the parking utility needs to function efficiently."
Sarah Hardy, 34, works for The Butterfly Tattoo, a gift shop on Ninth Street. It's just one business in the area that has experienced financial difficulties. It will soon close, but it plans to continue operating online.
Hardy said higher downtown parking fees are a bad idea.
"As I'm standing in a business that's closing in one month, the two businesses next door have closed," Hardy said. "There doesn't need to be another obstacle to people shopping downtown instead of in the big-box stores."
Jim Alabach, a partner at the Kroenke Group, is trying to lease commercial space down the street from The Butterfly Tattoo.
"It's bad for business," he said of the parking prices. "I don't believe that taxing customers via parking fines is the best way to attract additional business to downtown Columbia."