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City to re-evaluate $9.75M parking garage

The city will re-evaluate its plans for a $9.75 million downtown parking garage after receiving less than 8 percent of what it had requested from the state’s capital budget.

Gov. John Kasich signed the capital budget earlier this week and it included $250,000 for the parking garage. The city of Springfield had sought $3.15 million.

“It’s probably enough for a four-car garage, but that’s not quite enough to fit the need,” Mayor Warren Copeland said.

The proposal calls for a four-story, 485-space parking garage, as well as three 5,000-square-foot ground level units for retail and commercial use on the corner of North Fountain Avenue and Columbia Street, according to a request submitted to the Priority Development Advocacy Committee. The local group prioritizes projects that seek state funding.

The city will re-examine the project, Copeland said, including the size of the garage. The money could be used for a consultant to perform another parking study.

“It’s not what we asked for, but I certainly wouldn’t turn it down,” Copeland said.

The garage was expected to aid with the creation of 400 jobs as a result of downtown growth, generating about $15.5 million in annual payroll over the next six to 10 years, according to the funding request. If the full budget request was granted, the project was expected to begin construction as soon as possible.

The city also has drafted an agreement to share the parking facility with Clark State Community College for its nearby facilities.

Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller declined to comment on why the money was reduced by the state, but said the city appreciates any funding it receives in the capital budget.

The capital budget is funded through tax-exempt bonds, primarily for construction, renovation and repair of state assets, according to Dave Pagnard, the deputy director of communications for the Ohio Office of Budget and Management.

The state is limited by the extent to which these bonds can be used for a particular project due to IRS rules. The projects must be tied to a state agency, which can present funding challenges for parking garages, Pagnard said.

The site is currently an unpaved public parking lot, which could also be paved as a surface lot. The city had planned to do a similar project last year, but it became too expensive. The paved lot would have created 104 parking spaces.

About $360 million in investments have been made downtown since 2009, according to the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Several businesses, including Code Blue, Clark, Schaefer and Hackett, and Ohio Valley Surgical Hospital have recently moved there. The city also recently completed a $1.2 million streetscape project on North Fountain Avenue.

The primary function of the garage is to provide parking for businesses that bring jobs to downtown.

City staff members will discuss how to use the money and explore any restrictions it might have through the capital budget, said Josh Rauch, the city’s deputy economic development administrator.

While there is ample parking downtown, he said most of it is surface lots and is privately owned. He said it would be easier to attract downtown office users if they had a place to park a large number of cars.

“There isn’t really a spot to do that that’s accessible at this point in time,” Rauch said. “If we had it, it would allow us to pitch the downtown area.”

The city will likely make another request when the next capital budget process begins again in two years, Copeland said.

The initial plan was for the city, Clark County and the state to share the costs of the parking garage, but there weren’t firm commitments “from any of the three,” Copeland said. The Springfield Port Authority also was expected to provide $600,000 for the project, according to the funding request.

The city will attempt to nail down project costs and receive a firm commitment from the county before the next capital budget process.

“It’s important for downtown jobs, but I don’t see us being able to do it without any help from the state,” Copeland said.

The Center City Association was disappointed by the money provided by the state. The lack of a parking garage likely won’t hurt downtown’s retail growth, said Center City Executive Director Bill Harless.

“A parking garage in downtown Springfield would be an added bonus to our goal of bringing more people, more businesses and retail downtown,” he said. “I’m a believer in ‘If you build it, they will come.’”

Sam Beloff, the owner of Rose City Fine Jewelry & Loan, 26 N. Fountain Ave., said the city’s public parking lot across the street from his business has been a boon for business. If it can’t be converted into a parking garage, Beloff said he’d like to see the lot paved.

The project was one of five Clark County requests to receive a total of about $4 million in the state capital budget. That included $1 million for the Food and Bioscience Training Center that’s part of a Clark State Community College’s new precision agriculture program at the former South High School.

The city also received $500,000 for the Springfield unmanned aerial vehicle hangar at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport.

While Copeland was disappointed in the amount of funding the city received for the parking facility, he said the rest of the projects were all good projects, including the planned reuse of South High.

“If that $1 million helps save that building, it’s something well worth doing,” Copeland said. “That building means a lot to this community.”

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