$9.75M parking garage tops area’s request list

Downtown Springfield garage would spark new jobs, supporters say.

The planned $9.75 million downtown parking garage continues to be the top priority for a local advocacy group, and leaders here believe it could be jump-started by $3 million in state funding next year.

Local officials estimate the parking garage will support the creation of up to 700 jobs worth $27.5 million in annual payroll and will enhance the downtown area, which has seen $360 million in investments since 2009, according to the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

The project has been the Priority Development Advocacy Committee’s top priority for several years and “will continue to be until it’s funded,” said Mike McDorman, the president and CEO of the chamber.

Officials hope to receive $3 million from the state, which could be matched by city and county government and by other local stakeholders.

Tom Franzen, assistant city manager and director of economic development, said there’s no target date to complete the garage. Once funding becomes available, construction will move forward.

Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said the county is open to listening to proposals for the parking garage.

“We’re receptive to it because it would benefit the whole community and could drive further expansion of employment in the downtown area,” Detrick said.

After a few years of removing community-based projects from the state’s capital budget, local legislators have indicated funding could return for the 2015 fiscal year. The Office of Budget and Management will seek requests for community-based projects that it feels “make the most sense” from a state and local perspective.

“There’s a lot of work that has to be done yet to get the city and the county to agree to that, but I think they’re committed if the state will partner with them,” McDorman said. “There’s been a lot of discussion at the city and the county about this, and there’s a strong consensus that this needs to be done.”

A parking garage is a logical step, McDorman said, considering the recent influx of development including the park, Springfield Regional Medical Center, Ohio Valley Medical Center, the National Trail Parks and Recreation District’s Chiller ice arena and the Heritage Center among others.

“The missing piece to the puzzle is a parking structure that can hold a lot of cars,” McDorman said.

The recent addition of new employers including Code Blue, Clark, Schaefer and Hackett and the Ohio Valley Medical Center has sparked the desire for parking downtown.

“It’s a demand-driven necessity,” Franzen said.

Clark County hasn’t received any state capital budget funds for a community-based project since 2008 when the area received $2 million for the National Road Commons downtown park, which opened in 2010. The state included $3.5 million for the Heritage Center between 2001 and 2004.

“We’re looking forward to the next round of opportunities,” McDorman said.

Local priorities

The local Priority Development Advocacy Committee, which consists of city and county officials, local colleges and universities, arts groups, local healthcare representatives and others, comes together each year to discuss projects that could use funding from the federal or state governments, McDorman said. The local PDAC meets annually in September, two months before the Dayton Development Coalition’s PDAC meeting in November.

The local group creates its own lists of priorities, which it shares with legislators both locally and in Washington, D.C., as well as with the Dayton Development Coalition. The local PDAC group serves on several committees and subcommittees with the Development Coalition, including economic development, quality of life and transportation.

“In the past, we really didn’t have an organized group who looked at our funding priorities and went after them through meetings with our legislators,” McDorman said. “Now, we have a structured process in which each one of us when we meet individually with them or as a group, we’re able to put forth our priorities. They’re all the same priorities because we’re working together.”

The community has come together the last five years for the local priority list.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in this area as a community,” McDorman said. “I believe that’s why you’re seeing a lot of development here.”

This year’s list of requests will be finalized before the November meeting with the Development Coalition’s PDAC group, McDorman said.

“We want to be completely prepared by that Nov. 15 deadline with our requests for the upcoming year,” McDorman said.

Other priority requests in recent years from the local PDAC team include:

• $2.5 million for the redevelopment of the former Fountain Boulevard hospital complex.

• $2 million for the construction of a new UAS hangar at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport.

• $1.6 million for an assessment and certification center at Clark State Community College.

• $1.5 million for bike paths, including completion of the Little Miami section construction and in Snyder Park near the whitewater project.

Other federal priorities included:

• Supporting the Ohio-Indiana proposal to the Federal Aviation Administration to be designated one of the six sites to test the integration of unmanned aerial systems, which includes using the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport.

• Urging the Air Force Reserve to locate a proposed assault landing strip for the 445th Airlift Wing at the Springfield Air National Guard Base and airport complex.

• Requesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean up and remove the hazardous waste at the Tremont City Barrel Fill, which threatens the local water supply.

• Asking the Air Force to locate Predator aircraft at the Springfield base.

Parking issues

The 15,000-square-foot, four-level parking garage, which would be located on the corner of Fountain Avenue and Columbia Street, would have approximately 480 spaces. The garage would be accessible to multiple modes of transportation and be constructed with energy efficient “green” features.

The garage would stimulate economic development downtown, as well as create retail and restaurant opportunities in the area.

“We feel like its a competitive project,” Franzen said.

The parking garage could eliminate the perception that it’s difficult to park downtown. While leaders believe parking is not a big problem, the spaces may not be as close to certain areas or businesses as the community would often like.

“It’s a challenge,” McDorman said. “Whenever we talk to people about coming downtown, whether it’s bringing 100 people downtown to work, that’s the first thing that we end up talking about is parking.”

Franzen said line of sight parking is key for employers and businesses.

Donna Jarzab, manager at Fair Trade Winds in the former Meeks building on Fountain Avenue, said the planned parking garage played a key role in their decision to locate downtown.

“I really think it’s eventually going to be a prime spot,” Jarzab said.

She believes the parking garage will enhance the area in the future and eliminate the perceived issue that there’s no parking downtown.

“A parking garage will change that,” Jarzab said.

The $1.2 million streetscape project currently under construction will also play a key role in bringing more business and patrons downtown.

“We’re going through a few weeks of pain, but in the end I know it’s going to be worth it,” Jarzab said.

The gravel parking lot at the site of the planned parking garage is currently being used for public parking. Earlier this year, the city requested estimates to have the lot renovated, but bids came back over budget and officials are discussing how to move forward. The lot would have created approximately 104 parking spaces and implemented storm water design techniques.

“It wouldn’t be prudent to spend taxpayer dollars to create surface parking that’s only going to be torn up for a garage later,” Franzen said. “We’re looking for a cost-effective, interim solution to enhance the parking experience in that surface lot.”

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