- Michael Cooper Staff Writer
A parking study may be updated this year by a local non-profit organization as city leaders re-evaluate the plan for a more than $9 million parking garage project downtown.
The city of Springfield has worked for years to build a $9.75 million, 485-space parking garage at Fountain Avenue and Columbia Street.
However, the city may look at different options for the planned garage, including building two smaller garages in different areas downtown. All options are being examined, city officials said.
“Anything is on the table,” Assistant City Manager and Director of Economic Development Tom Franzen said. “Our financial situation is different now, a lot more stressed than it was 10 years ago when we were talking about this project. The fiscal realities the city finds itself faced with now are different. I think all of that comes into play.”
Franzen provided an update on the project and others as part of an annual discussion on economic development at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting.
More than $400 million has been pumped into downtown Springfield over the past 10 years, including the construction of two hospitals, a massive renovation of the historic Bushnell Building, the NTPRD Chiller ice arena and a brewery, Mother Stewart’s Brewing Co. EF Hutton also recently purchased the building at 1 Main St., which could bring up to 400 jobs downtown.
The interest in downtown continues to increase, including retail and commercial office companies, Franzen said.
“The need for the garage isn’t going to go away,” he said. “That’s the reality we all understand. We’ve got to look at different ways of getting it done.”
Local officials estimate the 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.
The city has performed several parking studies and construction estimates in the past, Franzen said, but many were completed as far back as 12 years ago.
“It’s all probably close to accurate, but it’s dated,” he said.
A 2008 parking study found about 4,700 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.
SpringForward, a nonprofit focused on targeting investments in downtown, may be updating a past study to parking data, as well as the best location for parking downtown.
“They want to get updated and make sure we’re on the right track about where that garage should go and how we as a community can come together to pull that off,” Franzen said.
The plan calls for a 485-space, four-story garage with 15,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor. The garage would be paid parking and meters could be placed on the street out of fairness, officials said last year.
The parking lot is currently being used as surface parking and has about 110 spaces. It’s near several prominent downtown buildings, including Hull Plaza at 4 W. Main St. In order to bring jobs and retail, the city must identify parking for prospective companies, he said.
The original goal for the project was for the city, county and state to each contribute $3 million.
The city has received about $1.75 million in state funding for the project, including $1.5 million as part of the state’s capital budget last year. It has spent about $600,000 on the project, including land acquisition. It may also seek private money for the project.
“There’s financing options out there, but that’s the puzzle we’ve got to solve moving forward,” Franzen said.
Ohio State recently privatized its parking, Commissioner Dan Martin said, meaning there are people out there who will work with government agencies to operate parking.
The city continues to look at attracting similar investors, Franzen said. The parking projects are usually tied to a jobs project, he said.
“If an employer is going to build a building next to it and there’s an obvious use that they can predict, then we’ll get that investment,” Franzen said.
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