A planned 455-space parking garage on Walnut Street across from the post office could alleviate the city’s need for parking downtown that is forcasted to grow as more government employees begin working in the District.
In a report that the Columbia City Council will review at its Monday meeting, Public Works Director John Glascock outlined the possibility of building a garage north of Broadway between Fifth and Sixth streets. The 455-space garage would be built on what is now a city-owned surface lot currently occupied by 25 police spaces and 60 metered customer spaces.
“A parking garage north of Broadway is really needed,” said Carrie Gartner, director of the Special Business District. “It makes no sense to have a surface parking lot that houses 100 cars when you can build a garage that houses 400 cars.”
In addition to increased customer parking, the $22 million expansion and renovation of city hall will bring more city employees downtown, creating the need an additional 110 parking spaces.
The new garage could be built up to six floors and would cost an estimated $15 million to $17 million —or about $21,000 to $24,000 per space.
Glascock’s report proposes a ground level that would contain 11,000 to 14,000 square feet of retail space.
Gartner said the Special Business District Board of Directors has pushed for the additional retail space.
“The problem is (parking garages) block the pedestrian feel of the district,” said Gartner. “Putting retail or office space on the bottom floor just to keep the traffic flow going is really important.”
According to the report, the addition of retail space would push up the cost per parking space in the garage. The costs would be offset by renting the space, however.
“There is a lot of efficiency on-site with the ground level being retail space,” Glascock said in the report. “In discussing lease rates with a local Realtor, the city could expect to recoup a financial offset of $144,210 to $183,540 per year for this retail space, if all space is leased.”
The city also has the option of including secure underground parking for up to 30 police vehicles, adding an additional five spaces to the number available in the current lot. The project could even include an underground tunnel linking the new garage to the police building on the east side of Sixth Street.
Transportation Manager Ken Koopmans said the additional police spaces are just an estimate for future need.
“Every year there’s one or two more officers with a car,” he said. Depending on the amount of time for approval, in addition to the 20 to 23 months it will take to construct the garage, the space would be needed.
The number of spaces could expand to 655 if the city opts to buy two adjacent properties owned by Commerce Bank and the Municipal Credit Union. The estimated price of those properties is $1.15 million.
Koopmans said there is no exact plan in place yet. The department will wait for guidance from the City Council before pursuing specific plans.