By Alyssa Schnugg
The construction of the downtown parking garage is set to begin in just two weeks and city officials are expecting it to be an inconvenience for Square business owners, employees and visitors.
“To build something like this, it’s unreasonable to not expect some inconveniences,” said Downtown Parking Advisory Commission member Dreher Harris. “We’ve been talking about this for over six years and we meet the first Friday of every month where the public is welcome to attend.”
One of several planned public meetings was held Friday evening at City Hall. The meetings are aimed at keeping residents and business owners up to date on the construction timeline and availability of parking spots.
Innovative Construction Management president Casey Rogers said excavation of the site will begin Aug. 27, which will take several weeks.
“For the first couple of months you’ll see a lot of dump trucks going in and out of the site,” Rogers said.
In November, Rogers expects the 60-foot precast walls to start arriving.
“We will have the large trailers come up from the coast and have a staging area and then use a transport truck to being the trailers to the site so we can better plan and coordinate the times the trucks are coming into the site,” Rogers said.
The parking garage is being built in the city-owned parking lot behind the Oxford North Square shopping center, off Jefferson Avenue. Several business owners at the meeting Friday said they rely on the parking lot for their delivery trucks and are concerned they won’t be able to receive deliveries when the parking lot is fenced off.
Parking Director Matt Davis said the city will work with delivery drivers and allow them to park in the parallel spaces on North Lamar Boulevard.
Mayor Robyn Tannehill said she would like to meet with business owners and contact the major delivery companies to get a better plan in place for deliveries and ask them to make most of their deliveries in the morning hours.
Other concerns raised included having enough free or reduced parking for employees, even after the garage is complete, and several questioned why the construction is starting now, right before the busiest time of year for many business owners.
Public Works Director Bart Robinson said there were several things taken into consideration in starting now to build. While the plan was to originally begin construction this past spring, some design and budget issues arose which postponed the project by a few months. However, the city has approved all the construction contracts.
“If we don’t move forward now, we will have to rebid the project and prices could go up, and it would take some doing to get out of our current contracts,” Robinson said.
Commission president Tom Sharpe said the commission has been focused on the planning for, designing of and construction of the parking garage.
“Now we have time to start looking at the entire downtown parking plan and see what needs changing and how best to handle things like whether we’ll parking passes for the garage.”
The city has hired a parking consultant to examine the parking around the downtown area to study how to make it most efficient and affordable while making enough money to pay for the bond payment for the parking garage.
More public hearings, in addition to the monthly DPAC meeting, will be held throughout the construction period.