Springfield to receive $800K more for downtown parking garage

The city of Springfield will receive additional money from the state for its planned downtown parking garage, which it hopes will lure more employers and people downtown.

The recent state capital bill includes $800,000 for the planned garage. That brings the total state funding for the project up to $2.5 million dollars after the city also received money for it during the last capital budget.

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A new garage is needed for downtown revitalization, City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said.

“The capitol bill comes up every two years and so for the last several cycles, we’ve been seeking the dollars for the state’s piece of it,” he said.

The city has worked for years to build a parking garage at the corner of Fountain Avenue and Columbia Street but it’s now re-evaluating the plan.

The original proposal called for the city, county and state to each contribute $3 million for a $9 million garage. However county commissioners have backed out. They never formally voted on it, Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said last month.

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Lohnes supports the idea of a parking garage to increase economic development, he said. But he doesn’t believe the county should invest $3 million in it, given its current financial situation.

The county is set to lose about $3 million annually due to federal changes in the way Medicaid sales tax is collected, he said. The commission also had two new members elected last year, Lowell McGlothin and Melanie Flax Wilt, who have yet to discuss the project in an open session, he said.

So the city is considering its options, Bodemiller said.

“Probably a smaller, scaled-down structure that’s still something we can point to for employers, prospective employers to bring jobs to the downtown … We will have to scale that down or look at multiple sites, multiple surface lots,” he said.

The city has parking available downtown, Bodenmiller said, but it’s spread out. The project will allow a large portion to be in a centralized location.

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“When we are courting employers to come downtown, they want to be able to say, ‘I could put 100 people here, I can put 200 people here,’” Bodenmiller said.

Geoff Norman owns The Fountain on Main, a 1950s-style soda shop and lunch counter. Parking downtown is a problem, he said, and his customers often have a hard time finding a place to park for lunch.

“It’s many days where there’s no problems at all,” Norman said. “There are some days where there is an event or two and it’s a haphazard, kind of where do I park?”

He‘s been at his location in the Bushnell Building on Main Street for 15 years.

“A lot folks don’t realize that the parking garage is connected to this building,” Norman said.

That Bushnell Building garage has been around for almost 30 years, Bodenmiller said.

“The parking garage across from the courthouse has some structural maintenance issues. It’s still functional but it’s longevity is not real solid at all. Probably at some point, it’s going to have to be taken down just because it’s condition is getting older,” he said.

By the numbers

$800,000: Included in recent state capital budget for downtown Springfield parking garage

$2.5 million: Total state money, including last capital budget, for parking garage

$9 million: Original cost of proposed garage that was to be split between the city, county and state

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