Plans are moving ahead to build a new downtown parking garage in Springfield after the Clark County commissioners recently voted to contribute up to $1 million toward the project.
Many details have yet to be worked out, including the exact size of the structure and potential construction dates, said Bryan Heck, Springfield’s deputy city manager. But the tentative plan would be to build a two to three-story structure on the corner of Fountain Avenue and Columbia Street with between approximately 250 to 350 parking spaces, Heck said. The site is now a city-owned parking lot.
The city is waiting on results from studies on the site and will likely submit a request for qualifying companies later this summer, he said.
The city and Chamber of Greater Springfield originally envisioned a larger, $9.75 million structure, but the county commissioners balked at the cost. Instead, Heck said the city will contribute $3 million while the county agreed to chip in $1 million for a smaller facility. The city also secured about $2.55 million in capital funding from the state, Heck said.
Along with parking spaces, the garage will also provide about 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of available retail space to provide an additional boost for the downtown, Heck said.
“To bring more investment and attract additional jobs downtown we need to address the parking strategy which includes a larger concentration in one location,” Heck said.
County officials said while they think the project is beneficial, the initial proposed $3 million was too much at a time in which the county is set to lose about $3 million annually due to federal changes in the way Medicaid sales tax is collected. Commissioner Lowell McGlothin and Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt each voted yes on the partnership, while Commissioner Rick Lohnes abstained from the vote.
Lohnes previously told the News-Sun he supports the idea of the parking garage, but said he was unsure whether the county budget was the right way to fund the project.
But Wilt said the commissioners still felt a contribution was important to provide a spark downtown. It’s tough for the county to make an investment that won’t necessarily show a quick return, Wilt said. But she said the parking garage is a small part of a bigger plan to bring more life to downtown Springfield.
She pointed to other projects downtown that have made downtown more attractive, including the National Trail Parks and Recreation District Chiller Ice Arena, the downtown hospital, Mother Stewart’s Brewing Co., and improvements to Fountain Avenue. The parking garage is a proactive move to ensure spaces are available as businesses and more events take a closer look at downtown, she said.
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“Springfield is our largest population center and all the residents of this county benefit from a strong county seat,” Wilt said.
McGlothin said he thinks the garage is overdue.
“I saw this as a much bigger project than just a parking garage,” McGlothin said of investment downtown.
Wilt said a vibrant downtown is also a key to encouraging skilled workers to think about living in Clark County instead of surrounding communities.
“Millennials expect a certain level of options in a community and we want to be a community where millennials want to stay and build their families,” she said.
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