After last week’s city council meeting Mayor Jerry gist appointed a majority committee of 5 city council members to study options regarding a downtown parking garage. This is not the first time the issue has been raised. At last months meeting after 3 committee meetings of a 3 member committee a recommendation to purchase a 3 story parking garage for an estimated 4.7 million dollars before the full council died without a motion. A Parking Garage proposal has been discussed since 2006. In that year John Allen purchased a parking lot on the corner of Shannon and Lafayette plus additional property for the purpose of building a multi-level garage with retail space. Allen insists this was all done at the behest of the previous administration.
Allen now comes before the body with multiple suggestions for consideration.
One option is for the city to buy back the land he purchased from them plus the additional two plots he bought to add square footage “AS IS”. This proposal would leave the city vulnerable to damaging the 101 Highland building which Allen owns should they decide to fill the hole.
The second option is to buy the land and pay Allen to fill-in the hole thus protecting the city from the liability of initial damage but Allen told the committee on Tuesday it could cause problems for his adjacent building for which the city would be liable.
Mr. Allen, who had his attorney present at this meeting, was clear on several occasions about his concern for the city’s well-being in the event of liable action on their part
The third option which contains several sub-components calls for the city to enter into a lease-purchase agreement between the city and Allen in which Allen would build and lease back to the city the building. This seemed to be the most desirable option to Allen and in his opinion resolved some of the concerns he believes are standing in the way of the City Council. Several times Allen referred to public resistance to a public / private partnership which he says has been very successful elsewhere.
Other points Allen stressed
• The council must see beyond what is here and now and look to the future. He said “Build it and they will come”
• He said he would have never gone as far as he has if he did not believe he has a contractual agreement with the city
• He said it was not needed to bid it out since it had already been bid out once to H & M Construction who came back with a cost 1 million dollars higher than his AND since he did the bidding himself and took the best bids
• When asked if the council voted to not finish the project Allen said it would be devastating to him personally but he said worse than that it would be devastating to the Downtown Development Corporation and a slap across the face to everyone who has invested in downtown.
• Allen says he has built in 8% profit for himself in this project and insists he is not making the big money many people believe.
Several from the public showed up for Tuesday’s meeting to voice opposition to the project saying the time and economy was not right for it, other opposition said if t was needed let private enterprise build it, it was also objectionable to the group that the city would consider going into the building retail space business in competition against private citizens.
• The committee is composed of five City Council members. (Danny Ellis, Frank Neudecker, Randy Wallace, Charles Pepper Bray, and Maurice Hays
• Mayor Gist proposed the city issue a bond and buy the project out-right rather than a long-term lease because he says that will save money overall.
• A lease purchase without retail area is projected to cost 4.2 million dollars
• The same building with retail space is estimated to cost 5.1 million dollars
• The retail space would be approximately 18 thousand square feet
• The garage under either case adds 152 parking spaces at a cost of approximately 27,000 dollars per space
• According to the Planning Department the city owns 1800 parking spaces and an estimated 1100 are utilized.
The committee took no action and agreed to meet again Tuesday November 17th at 4:00 p.m. The meeting will be held in the third floor conference room of Jackson City Hall. The public is invited to attend