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Planning Board endorses downtown parking deck

Rendering shows the proposed $8.4 million parking deck looking south from Fifth Avenue West. Rendering shows the proposed $8.4 million parking deck looking south from Fifth Avenue West.

The Hendersonville Planning Board endorsed a four-level parking deck downtown on Monday after members and residents posed questions about the hourly rate, stormwater runoff, the appearance and even vibration that could harm the underwater residents of the ECCO Aquarium & Shark Lab.

The 91,550-square-foot facility would be built on two-thirds of an acre on Fifth Avenue West at North Church Street and would have pedestrian and vehicle access from both Church and Fifth. A brick tower in the northeast corner of the structure would be less than 60 feet tall, in compliance with the downtown height limit of 64 feet. The development requires a conditional use rezoning permit, which the Planning Board unanimously endorsed and sent on to the City Council.

The parking deck would have three covered floors plus rooftop parking, for a total of 253 spaces. It would more than make up for around 157 spaces on the Dogwood lot that would be lost if the city and a developer move ahead with plans for a hotel on the city-owned parking lot, Assistant City Manager Brian Pahle told the Planning Board. Those talks have stalled for now because of the pandemic.
Thomas Reddig, one of the architects who designed the deck, narrated a series of slides that showed the project.
“It’s easy to get to, easy to use,” he said. “It’s compatible with the architecture of Hendersonville and the location warrants that.” Although designers have sketched out such amenities as a “green screen” between the parking deck and the alley behind the Main Street stores, “I think dollars and cents dictates what we can and can’t do.”
The architects studied the scale, materials and style of Main Street buildings to create a design that would fit. Downtown generally has buildings that are two- to three stories and 20 to 24 feet wide, made mostly of brick with stone accents and cornices, and punch windows. The architects designed the parking deck façade with darker reddish brick on the lower levels and lighter brick above. It has segments, or bays, that mimic the look of downtown.
The parking deck would be financed against the cash generated by installing meters downtown after decades of free parking. Parking meters would go up between King and Church streets from Seventh Avenue to Allen Street.
The city has proposed but not finally settled on parking rates of $2 an hour on Main, Church and King streets and the avenues and $3/hour in the parking deck. First hour in the parking deck would be free; not so the street, where parking would be paid.
“Otherwise, we’d have to put it on property tax payers and that is not a viable option,” Connet said. “That way our visitors who come to our community who are using our parking will pay for the parking.”
Studies as far back as 2000 have concluded that a parking deck is needed downtown. A 2015 survey showed that “we were regularly at 90-plus percent (of parking capacity), sometimes higher,” he said. “We feel like we’re pretty close to maxing out. The avenues are staying pretty full also.”
Besides raising money, city officials think metering Main Street will push long-term parkers to the parking deck or to more remote locations like Washington Street, where parking will remain free.
“If it’s free, we’re all going to park where it’s free first,” Connet said. “We want to encourage them to use other locations and open these spaces up for folks that are visiting our retail shops and restaurants.”

The Hendersonville City Council has authorized the parking deck, although the most recent cost estimate came in $800,000 over the budget of $8.4 million. The city is looking at ways to trim the cost to get the project on project, Connet said, exploring reductions with the architects and the construction manager-at-risk.
“Yes, we’re having that conversation but we’re very early in the process,” he said. “There will be at least two other times we look at the cost of the project, taking into account the cost and what we want the project to look like.”
Architects met with ECCO aquarium manager BJ Ramer to hear her concerns about vibrations that could harm aquatic life and “we have a good understanding of the requirements they may have as it relates to vibration,” Connet said.