COLUMBIA — A new trio is in charge of the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council, which voted in its new executive committee Tuesday afternoon.
Outgoing chairman Randy Gray urged the group to "stay the course" on the work they've done since 2008. In the immediate future that work includes input on the planned Short Street Garage.
The new executive committee consists of current members Rosalie Gerding as chairwoman, current secretary Brian Treece as vice-chairman, and Historic Preservation Commission representative Brent Gardner as secretary.
Presiding County Commissioner Ed Robb, who passed away unexpectedly over the weekend, had been serving as representative to the DCLC from the Boone County Commission. According to the legislation that established the DCLC, the commission is called on to appoint a representative. Discussion Tuesday afternoon did not go beyond memorial services for Robb.
The Short Street Garage was the topic of the hour, including the most recent design plans, the upcoming public hearing, traffic implications and the private development proposed for an adjoining parcel of land.
At the Oct. 3 public hearing on the garage, Walker Parking Consultants is expected to present "what will hopefully be the final concept and functional drawings" for the garage, Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said.
He debriefed the DCLC on the City Council’s work session the previous night. The primary difference in the two designs presented are in the building’s façade. Regardless of design, the major structural decision the council has to make is how many levels to make the garage.
St. Romaine said that current plans are to build it five stories high. The city council decided at its Monday work session also to request two alternate bids, adding a half-level or a full level of extra parking.
Chairwoman-elect Rosalie Gerding expressed surprise that one extra level of parking, if the city decides to add one, would cost about $1 million, commenting that it seemed high. On the other hand, she said, "If you don’t build for the future, you get criticized for that now."
City Council preferred the option that, as St. Romaine described it, "will kind of disguise the ramping so it looks like a series of typical downtown buildings." The other option, using more uniform building materials, makes the garage look more like the single building that it is.
Some members of the DCLC concurred with the council in wanting more information about the "green screen" concept of growing a planted, living wall in some exterior panels of the garage. Many also favored including three public elevators instead of two.
St. Romaine acknowledged that traffic is predicted to increase in the area once the garage is constructed. He said a traffic study is being conducted on Walnut Street. "Imagine dumping 300 cars at a time onto Walnut. It’s certainly something we’re going to have to address," he said.
Real estate negotiations are still in progress between the city and North Light LLC for the parcel of land adjacent to the planned garage. Earlier discussions started with plans to integrate commercial space into the ground floor of the garage. Now the plans center around a proposed mixed-use structure to be built wall-to-wall against the garage.
"It's more than just the actual land price we’re selling," St. Romaine said. He explained that planning a complementary design and simultaneous construction of the two separate buildings implies some shared costs. The two parties are working out how they will split these additional costs.
The two buildings might use at least one common elevator, for example. If an elevator the city plans for its own use ends up with doors that also serve the private building, St. Romaine said, the private builder shouldn't get that elevator for free.
"If we share the same footings and foundation, it makes sense to share, and the city shouldn’t have to bear that," he said.
The garage talk also opened a larger conversation about the point at which the city will pass on responsibility for private parking to private developers.
"The best time to do it is probably now if we are ever going to build it bigger," St. Romaine said. "When you look at capacity, you have to build for the whole system," he said, pointing out that the garage at Fifth and Walnut streets is currently at 69 percent capacity and growing.
Outgoing chairman Randy Gray did not seem sold on the larger size. "I don't think it’s possible to have this garage meet all the future demand for the North Village," he said.
"Is it realistic to expect the public sector to provide all the parking for everything that may occur in the next 10 years? The private sector ... may have to start looking into going below ground and absorbing some of those costs," he said.