Design work at the State Street parking garage is still months from completion, but city staff had an important update for the City Commission Monday: the anticipated cost of the garage was more than 50% higher than the original budget.
The project budget, approved in 2009, allocated about $7.2 million for the completion of the parking garage at State Street and Lemon Avenue. Today, the estimated costs have risen to around $11.3 million, leaving the city potentially responsible for finding an additional $4.1 million to cover the increased expense and finish the project.
Chief Planner Steve Stancel said there were a number of factors that contributed to the rising costs. The project site led to reduced efficiency, he said; the shallow depth of the lot required fewer parking spaces on more floors than industry standards call for. As a result, the projected cost per parking space is more than $10,000 higher than the national average.
Other factors that contributed to the rising expenses were the chosen construction technique, the use of a high-quality façade and the increased cost of labor, Stancel said. He also said that the current project cost was just an estimate, and that prices could come down in the bidding process.
Stancel outlined a series of potential routes to covering the unbudgeted segment of the project. Those measures included using funds from the city’s Downtown Community Redevelopment Area, the reallocation of funds from projects unlikely to be completed this fiscal year and interfund loans.
Commissioners expressed a dismay with the new price tag associated with the garage, but directed staff to continue on its current path in a 3-2 vote. Mayor Shannon Snyder and Commissioner Paul Caragiulo dissented, with Caragiulo stating that the new figures painted the project in an entirely new light.
“This calls into the question the feasibility of the project,” Caragiulo said. “We had the numbers dead wrong about this. I'm just sitting here wondering — to build or not to build, that is the question.”
Commissioner Susan Chapman said she was shocked about the price jump, and that she had ambivalent feelings about the project. Ultimately, she said, she believed the city had no choice but to continue its efforts to try to complete the garage. A 2011 agreement with Pineapple Square requires the city to construct a parking garage at the State Street site by February 2015.
“We are bound by limitations of the previous votes of not just this commission, but previous commissions,” Chapman said. “All of those things set us on a path that hasn't been good for the fiscal health of the city.”
In April, staff will return to the commission with the winning bids for the engineering and construction of the garage. If the commission is unhappy with the costs at that time, they can still reject the winning contractor. If the bid is approved in April, construction at the garage is expected to begin in May, with final completion in March 2015.
The current design plans call for a six-floor garage with approximately 15,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level and 399 parking spaces. A private developer would construct a five-to-six story pad site of approximately 5,040 square feet next to the garage on Lemon Avenue.
Contact David Conway at [email protected].