City to build fifth downtown parking facility

Thursday, December 20, 2007 | 7:47 p.m. CST; updated 2:35 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

City officials hope that by the middle of 2010 there will be a new parking garage built downtown between Fifth and Sixth streets on the south side of Walnut Street.

Walker Parking Consultants of Elgin, Ill., has been selected to design the parking structure. The group will first come up with general ideas for what would work best in the space, which is directly across Walnut Street from the U.S. Post Office, and generate various options and costs, said Jill Stedem, a spokeswoman for the Public Works Department.

Once a general idea is approved, Walker will fine tune the architectural details of the structure. City officials don’t know yet how many parking spaces the garage would have, but Stedem said it probably would have retail space along the bottom.

The City Council, which approved the selection of the Walker firm on Monday night, will make final decisions on the design in about two months.

David Hendrey, president of Columbia Municipal Employees Credit Union at 8 N. Fifth St., is indifferent to the project as a property owner. While part of the parking facility might potentially use land occupied by the credit union, Hendrey said it already has plans to move to 310 Walnut St. by February. By the time the city gets around to building the garage, the credit union might no longer own the property, Hendrey said.

Hendrey does, however, agree that there’s a need for additional parking.

“The parking lot next to us always seems to be full, so it seems like they need more parking,” he said. “From that respect, it seems like it would be a good idea.”

The Commerce Bank building at Broadway and Fifth Street might also be affected. Jim Schatz, the bank’s regional chairman for central Missouri, said knows little about the specific plans. He did say, however, that Commerce Bank would support the city’s effort to create more parking and “try to work with the city on their initiative.”

Ken Townsend, a manager at McNally’s Irish Pub, said the planned garage would not affect the bar’s property, but it might be good for business.

“It might help a little,” Townsend said. “The police will have more spots to park their cars, which will free up spaces for our customers.”

The prospect of building a fifth parking facility in the District results from a feasibility survey conducted in 2001. Stedem explained that “part of the information that came from the report was growth north of Broadway and being short of parking north of Broadway,” she said.

The city is also working with the owners of The Regency Hotel, 1111 E. Broadway, to build a new parking garage in that area in conjunction with a reconstruction of the hotel. Plans call for a total of 280 spaces, with 120 spots available for hotel guests and the remaining spots available for the public. Construction of two garages north of Broadway should help alleviate the parking shortage.

The four parking facilities already downtown are at Tenth and Cherry streets, Eighth and Cherry streets, Sixth and Cherry streets, and Eighth and Walnut streets. Only the garage at Eighth and Walnut is currently north of Broadway.

Stedem said the parking garage across from the post office should be done about the same time as the new City Hall.

“Hopefully they will go hand in hand.”

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