City to improve parking lot before garage is built

Downtown Springfield projects spur upgrades to paved lot in key block.Government Spending Springfield

The city-owned gravel parking lot on the corner of North Fountain Avenue and West Columbia Street will get a facelift later this year.

The paved lot will create approximately 104 parking spots, including five handicapped spots. Trees and other landscaping will be located along the perimeter of the property, which will remain free public parking.

A $9 million, three-story, 450-space parking garage is still planned for the location, City Engineer LeoShanayda said. It’s uncertain when a garage would be built, however.

“This is a step prior to the parking garage,” Shanayda said. “It’s improving upon the parking that’s already there for the downtown businesses and customers coming to the downtown area.”

The project will run concurrently with the $1.2 million two-way street conversion and streetscape improvements on Fountain Avenue, which are expected to begin after Memorial Day. The block of North Fountain Avenue between Columbia and Main streets will change from one-way to two-way traffic. The project also includes brick pavers, new sidewalks, decorative street lights and repaving of the road.

The parking lot’s construction will begin in July and is expected to be completed in September. No cost estimates where available, according to Shanayda.

“Currently, the parking is haphazard,” Shanayda said. “It’s not striped.”

Nona Alleman, the co-owner of Running with Scissors Creative Collection, 32 N. Fountain Ave., said the improvements to the parking lot will be “fabulous.”

“It will just add to the improvements everyone is doing on Fountain and throughout downtown,” Alleman said. “It will go well with the park. The park is gorgeous. This will just be an added benefit.”

The city will seek a conditional use permit and tree variance for its one acre parking lot from the Board of Zoning Appeals on Monday.

According to public documents, the city will also implement storm water engineering into the plan as a way to show contractors how to best use those types of techniques.

“It gives them an example of it working, something in action,” Shanayda said.

The city will install planting beds on the east and north perimeters of the property to allow storm water to run into planting beds, where it will be filtered and cleaned before mixing the groundwater.

The parking lot was created after the city razed the former Doughty & Doughty Law Firm, 39 N. Fountain Ave., in February of 2012. The city acquired the building at no cost during negotiations to make the Bushnell Building a job-ready site.

The city spent $18,000 to backfill the lot, which has been used as a gravel parking lot ever since.

The 104 spots will replace those lost when the National Road Commons Mall park was created.

“To be able to replace it is vital to the downtown,” said Bryan Heck, the city’s planning and zoning administrator.

Alleman said the business relocated to Fountain Avenue last year because of all of the improvements being made downtown. She said the parking lot has helped their business succeed.

“We’ve not had anyone say they’ve had a problem finding a place to park when they’ve come to our store,” Alleman said.

She’s also seen people have trouble navigating through the unpaved lot, and believes the striped spots will be beneficial to customers.

Tom Franzen, the city’s assistant city manager and director of economic development, said the parking garage is still in the works, although no timetable has been set on when construction will begin. The city is still looking for funding for the project, which was conceived as a top priority downtown as part of Greater Springfield Moving Forward. The city hopes to begin construction on the parking garage in two to three years, Franzen said.

“We’re still looking to solidify a funding plan at this point,” Franzen said. “It’s one of the most important, if not the most important, capital need for the community. There’s so much tied to it as far as economic development downtown.”

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