COLUMBIA — Short Street will close Jan. 1 in anticipation of the demolition of the Regency Hotel and development of a new hotel and parking garage.
The City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday night authorizing the closing of Short Street through summer 2013, when construction of the new downtown garage and DoubleTree by Hilton hotel are expected to be completed. Short Street connects Broadway and Walnut Street.
When Short Street reopens, it will be several feet west of its current location, and its brick surface will be replaced by concrete, according to a staff report to the council. The city plans to salvage the bricks before heavy equipment moves in and use them for future repairs of other historic brick streets in the city, the report stated.
Because of her own commute, Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe noted a discrepancy between the date the report said the closing was to begin and the date the ordinance listed. The ordinance said the closing would begin Friday, but Public Works Director John Glascock said Jan. 1 was preferred.
"I use that street, so I wanted to know," Hoppe said.
Two city-owned parking lots near the Regency Hotel also were approved for temporary use by Broadway Lodging LLC, the developer of the new DoubleTree hotel. The council agreed to let Broadway Lodging use the lots until construction begins on the new garage. That construction is expected to start in April.
On Monday afternoon, stacks of chairs and other furniture were being removed from the Regency. At the Dec. 5 council meeting, Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said Broadway Lodging plans to begin demolishing the Regency Hotel on Jan. 15.
Plans for the new garage would keep Short Street as a connection between Broadway and Walnut Street.
Monday night, Glascock presented the Downtown Parking Task Force's recommendations for a parking revenue system for the new garage. In a Dec. 1 letter to Mayor Bob McDavid, task force Chairman Skip Walther recommended a “pay-on-foot” system for the new garage, which would include a gate to ensure collection of fees.
Glascock described the system as one in which the driver would receive a ticket upon entering the garage, pay at a station and then return the receipt at the gate to exit.
The task force also recommended the city consider electronic signs that would indicate the number of vacancies in the garage either by floor or by the entire garage. The former plan would cost the city an estimated $70,000, according to a report from the Public Works Department, while the less specific option would cost $18,000.
The report noted the electronic signs would violate city code; the task force asked the council to seek a variance for the signs. Section 23-2 of the code states: “No display signs which contain or include electronically operated changing alpha-numeric message signs shall be allowed.”
Glascock insisted the signs would be modest in size but legible and that he would provide an example for council approval.
"They're not going to be very small, but they won't be taking up the whole side of the building," Glascock said.