Columbia City Council discusses plans for Short Street parking garage

Saturday, June 11, 2011 | 5:57 p.m. CDT; updated 11:50 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 26, 2011

COLUMBIA — Plans for the Short Street garage produced conflicting opinions from the City Council at its retreat Saturday.

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine presented ideas for the garage based on stakeholders meetings held in March and April. The proposed garage will be built in coordination with the redevelopment of the Regency Hotel. 

Other topics discussed at the retreat

Archiving minutes: The city manager and the City Council discussed the possibility of commission minutes and council minutes being put into a searchable database.

City transportation app: Mayor Bob McDavid wants to look into a phone app, which would show the location of city buses along their routes.

Sustainability Grant: The Office of Sustainability is working on an electric vehicle infrastructure planning grant with the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Natural Gas Station: Columbia Water and Light Director John Glascock said he is researching a partnership with a clean energy company to bring a natural gas station to Columbia.

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The facade of the garage was a point of argument among council members. Mayor Bob McDavid said it was too soon to decide on a design because it was important for the garage to match the facade of the new hotel building.

"The basic principle with parking garages is that you blend in," McDavid said. "That's the goal of parking garages. Nobody talks about them."

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony said she thinks this project could take a more original route because of its location in the North Village Arts District.

"We could be a little more creative with this garage," Anthony said. "It has to be thought of differently than the other garages in this town."

Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill agreed with Anthony's desire for a more distinctive garage and additionally voiced his own wish for an environmentally friendly structure by proposing the addition of solar panels placed on the top floor to provide some power for the garage.

"I'm sure it's expensive," Thornhill said. "It makes it a little less offensive if we can get something good on top of that thing."

The amount of parking spaces proved to be another source of disagreement for the council. Of the 300 planned parking spaces, 100 of those spaces would be rented out to the hotel and 50 would be set aside for pending residential developments.  

First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt said he did not want the city to limit itself with a small amount of spaces in an already developed area.

"We want to think real hard before we cut down the size and scope of the project," Schmidt said.

The six-story height restriction on the garage does limit the number of spaces that could be built, though McDavid said he was concerned about creating too many spaces, as there are in the Fifth and Walnut garage. 

The budget for the project is $7 million, but that total is dependent upon the creation of retail space along Walnut Street.

McDavid said he is not supportive of the city taking the responsibility of financing the retail spaces.

"I'm starting with a very negative bias about the city having anything to do with commercial real estate," McDavid said. "We have no core competency in that, and it's completely demonstrated by Fifth and Walnut."

McDavid said the retail space needs to be owned by a private entrepreneur or company to earn his support and that he wanted to keep the cost of the project "under control." 

"We don't have to spend $7 million," McDavid said. "We need to build something we are proud of and that is financially responsible."

Council members were also concerned about the closing of Short Street and its effect on the surrounding businesses. 

"I think it would really have an adverse affect on the art district," Anthony said. 

While the City Council did not agree on all of the details of the garage, they expressed interest for revised details based on their discussion.  

Despite his reservations, McDavid said he is looking forward to the project.

"I think it's going to be something that the city is going to be proud of, and I think the city is going to be happy we did it," McDavid said.

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