Although the City Commission spent more than four months considering designs for a garage on State Street — with a February 2015 deadline to complete the structure constantly looming — the final plan, approved at Monday’s commission meeting, wasn't even conceived until last week.
By a 4-1 vote, commissioners selected a "Pad Lite" plan for the garage site, located at State Street and Lemon Avenue. The proposal consisted of four levels of parking, providing around 345 parking spaces and about 15,800 square feet of retail space on the bottom floor of the garage. A 30-by-105-foot commercial liner building would stand in front of the garage along the length of Lemon Avenue.
The city’s Urban Design Studio team finalized the idea for the shallow Lemon Avenue “pad” building on Friday. During a presentation at tonight's meeting, Principal Urban Designer Andrew Georgiadis said the pad building could consist of four three-story live/work units and two, large apartments above them.
After the presentation, however, Georgiadis said several elements of the proposal could still be adjusted, including the number of levels in the garage and the number of units in the pad building.
Ian Black, a real-estate broker the city hired to sell commercial space at the garage, expressed his trepidation about the design. He said the pad parcel would underutilize a prime downtown location, and that not enough research had been done to gauge whether developers would be interested in the concept.
“It may be hard to get a developer to do that because of the difficulty of developing downtown,” Black said. “How feasible is it to build six units and get a significant return?”
Following the meeting, Black said the location would still make the pad building an attractive property, and he praised Georgiadis's design. Still, he said, it could be a challenge finding people interested in committing to such a small property. Black will spend the next two weeks studying to see if the project is viable for him to make a sale, or if the city will have to issue a request for proposals to find a developer.
"We have to get the pretty picture to be reality," Black said. "That's the challenge."
Despite Black’s concerns — and despite having only a few days to consider the design — Mayor Shannon Snyder said he had no concerns about the Pad Lite plan. He said the Urban Design Studio’s planning expertise carried a lot of importance.
“I have total confidence in (Urban Design Studio Director) Karin (Murphy) and Andrew,” Snyder said. “They have vast experience in doing this, and if it's a judgment on how we're going to do things, I'll take Karin and Andrew's judgment.”
One of the leading factors in selecting the design was the relatively short 19-month projected completion period. An agreement with Pineapple Square requires the city to have the garage completed by February 2015.
Some commissioners had stressed doing the project correctly over doing it quickly, but a consensus emerged that the city should make an attempt to honor its contract.
"It's important that someone who enters into an agreement with the city knows the city can meet its obligations," City Attorney Robert Fournier said.
The projected completion date for the garage isn't until around May 2015, but Pineapple Square developer John Simon said he was encouraged by the commission's discussion.
"I think the City Commission is now taking seriously the deadline and will hopefully push forward for a garage in place by the 2015 season," Simon said.
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