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$9M parking garage makes top 5 priority list

Springfield supports project but lacks its share of funding, city leader says.

The proposed $9.75 million parking garage in Springfield — which local leaders say could revitalize downtown — is ranked in the top 5 of a regional advocacy group’s proposed list of economic development projects for the upcoming state capital budget.

However, until the city of Springfield can find funding for the project, it will remain on hold, said City Manager Jim Bodenmiller.

“This is still a very important project for downtown development and new job growth, but the city’s finances are a complicating factor,” Bodenmiller said.

The garage, planned at the city of Springfield’s current lot on the corner of Fountain Avenue and Columbia Street, ranks fourth on the Dayton Development Coalition’s Priority Development and Advocacy list for economic development projects, a process designed to establish regional priorities when pursuing funding opportunities.

Local officials estimate the parking garage will support the creation of up to 700 jobs that could generate $27.5 million in annual payroll and will enhance the downtown area, which has seen $360 million in investments since 2009.

The garage has been a top priority for local economic development officials in recent years, said Horton Hobbs, vice president for economic development for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

“Just the fact that it continues to be a number one priority is very important,” Hobbs said. “If that’s built and it’s one of many or it’s the only one, I think it’s going to do a decent job of starting to deal with the parking issues we have in our downtown. It’s not going to be a complete fix. It’s not going to be a silver bullet, but a parking structure is becoming more and more important moving forward as we try to maximize areas for development.”

About $4.9 million in infrastructure improvements at the Wilmington Air Park in Clinton County is the top priority for economic development in the Dayton region. Also ranked ahead of the parking garage project is $600,000 for the Tech Town Technology Transfer and Commercialization project and $1.9 million for the Dayton Aviation Heritage Development Project.

The parking garage project ranked high on the list because it will yield a strong return on investment and provides a potential for economic growth, including jobs, said Michael Gessel, vice president of federal government programs for the Dayton Development Coalition.

“You have an excellent return on investment,” Gessel said. “That’s a critical criteria. We put a lot of weight on that criteria.”

Springfield made a $2.5 million request for the parking garage as part of the state’s capital budget in 2014, but received $250,000.

The city is facing a projected $930,000 deficit next year and will examine asking voters for a tax increase in November.

The original goal for the project was for the city, county and state to each contribute $3 million each. The city is also seeking private business investment for the project as well, Bodenmiller said.

“Without this support, the project will continue to be on hold,” Bodenmiller said.

The city has already spent about $600,000 on the project, including land acquisition.

The county is still interested in pursuing the parking garage project, said County Commissioner John Detrick.

“I’m happy it made the list,” Detrick said. “It’ll help revitalize the downtown.”

The plan calls for a 485-space, four-story parking garage with retail space on the first floor, although pieces of the design may change depending on the final cost. The garage would be accessible to multiple modes of transportation and be constructed with energy efficient “green” features.

The garage would be paid parking, but none of the details have been worked out. The city might also investigate placing parking meters on the remaining on-street public spaces out of fairness, officials said last year.

A 2008 parking study found about 4,700 parking spaces downtown, including 710 public spots and 322 on-street spaces. Some parking spots have been added and removed during that time, but the report remains fairly accurate, according to city officials.

Downtown job growth is critical to the Springfield community’s long-term viability, Bodenmiller said.

“If we want to see additional job growth and development in the downtown, we are going to need a parking structure,” he said.

The garage might not attract new jobs, but it would help accommodate a spike in employment the downtown has seen in recent years, Hobbs said.

“Parking is always a concern in any downtown environment, whether a business has been here for a long time or they’re looking at the area for the first time,” Hobbs said. “If you can satisfy a concern a business might have about availability of convenient parking for their employees, then you’ve leveled the playing field between downtown and another site. Right now we can’t do that. … I’m not certain one garage is enough, but it certainly will go a long way.”

The parking garage would be amazing for downtown businesses, said Donna Jarzab, owner of Fair Trade Winds, a gift shop located at 36 N. Fountain Ave. With more companies locating downtown, it will bring more people visiting stores and eating at restaurants, she said.

“It would absolutely help to bring in more retail out front,” Jarzab said.

The store has been open for three years and recently signed another three-year lease, she said. A sister store, Revival: The Art of Healing, will be opening next door next year and will include a yoga and Pilates studio and a natural tea bar.

The recent additions of the Hub Gallery and Bada Bing Pizzeria have increased business by 20 percent this year, she said.

“It’s due to more people coming downtown,” she said. “We hope to continue that.”

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