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Parking deck proposal would end free parking downtown

Architectural rendering shows a proposed parking deck facing Fifth Avenue West looking toward North Church Street at right. [ADW ARCHITECT RENDERING FOR CITY OF HENDERSONVILLE] Architectural rendering shows a proposed parking deck facing Fifth Avenue West looking toward North Church Street at right. [ADW ARCHITECT RENDERING FOR CITY OF HENDERSONVILLE]

The Hendersonville City Council may decide in the coming weeks to greenlight a five-story parking deck downtown that would partly support a hotel project on Church Street but also provide several hundred more spaces for downtown visitors.

City officials unveiled drawings of the proposed parking garage on Tuesday and made public the news that everyone who parks downtown would share in its cost. A parking deck can’t pay for itself if the city continues to provide free parking on Main Street and the avenues, the city's consultant said, giving rise to a recommendation for $1.50 an hour parking in the now free diagonal and parallel parking spaces downtown. It will be up to the City Council in the coming weeks to review the proposal and decide whether to go forward.
The $7.2 million deck would provide 323 spaces, with the hotel leasing 38 of them for overflow parking. The city is close to consummating a deal with a Fletcher-based developer to build a Springhill Suites by Marriott hotel on the city-owned Dogwood parking lot on Fifth Avenue at Church Street.
The city retained parking deck specialists Walker Consultants to evaluate the location, design and financing for the parking deck and adw architects to draft preliminary renderings. The drawings show a brick design of five stories, one with a tower at the corner of the deck in the middle of Fifth Avenue West across from the Dandelion restaurant.
Three representatives from Walker consultants, an adw architect and City Manager John Connet met with City Council members on Tuesday and with the media to unveil the proposed parking deck and explain the financing.

Council members' reaction had been "generally pretty positive," Connet said. "They know it's a pretty significant change but they want to do it right out of the gate, is what we heard. They like of the renderings of the deck, I think they have one they're gravitating too. As with change, there's a little bit of nervousness."

At 64 feet, the parking deck would be under the maximum set after city voters imposed a downtown building height limit in 2007.

The council will look at and discuss the project publicly for the first time next month and could take public comment then or at later meeting. The parking deck does not require a rezoning.

Although the parking deck is a companion project for the hotel, it's possible that the City Council could authorize it even if the hotel does not come to pass.

"That's a question for the City Council," Connet said. "At this point this project is being driven by the City Council. The question would be do we still need this if we don't get the hotel. That'll be a question for the City Council."

The renderings show a plaza like area on the east side of the parking deck behind the Main Street stores, awnings to make the street level more pedestrian friendly and large window openings to make the structure less monolithic.

"The City Council has been very clear that this deck as close as it can is going to match the architecture downtown," Connet said. "They're very cognizant of the feeling of the community about that."

If the council OK'd the proposal and encountered no snags, the parking deck could be open in the fall of 2021, Connet said.

Walker Consultants recommended that the city borrow money for the project and cover the debt with fees from the garage and downtown street parking. The parking rate would be $1.50 an hour on Main Street and the avenues and $1.25 an hour in the parking deck with the first hour free in the deck. Visitors would pay for street parking at a kiosk, similar to those the city has installed in paid parking lots, or with a parking app on their smart phone.

The city and its consultants chose property inside the Church-King boundaries and in a busy block of downtown.

"From the City Council's perspective, if they were going to go down this road, and meter Main and the avenues, to create this system, they wanted to put a parking deck in a location that was going to be most utilized," Connet said. "And most utilized, it needs to be close to Main Street, as close as possible. Church Street is a barrier. The City Council decided, if we're going to go down this road, we started this to benefit the hotel but, two, we want it as close to Main Street as we can get it so that the Main Street businesses will also benefit from it."

Parking decks in cities can’t make it financially if they compete against free parking on the street or in nearby surface lots, said Russell Randall, a Walker project manager.

“Basically what we find is that a market that hasn’t had much paid parking in the past will not support itself,” he said. “Even if you’re breaking the cost down over 20 or 30 years you end up with something that you’re not going to be able to keep up with if it’s just revenue generated with this facility.”
The paid on-street parking between Church and King would generate revenue to offset the cost of parking deck construction, Randall said. The first-hour-free in the parking deck “for a quick in and out visit” would free up spaces on the street “so people aren’t cruising looking for that last available parking space,” he said.
The financing proposal would also include tiered monthly parking rates in the parking deck, including lower cost rates for rooftop parking.

The financing approach here is similar to what Asheville has done to finance parking, Randall said, and the hourly rate is comparable to the fee charged in other cities. The only way to avoid paid parking on Main Street and the avenues, Connet said, would be to subsidize the parking garage construction debt with property tax revenue. Construction costs besides the construction would include design and other add-ons, raising the city’s total cost to $8.2 million, said consultant Joey Rowland.