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City Council wants more details about deck

August 20, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown City Council members on Tuesday demanded more information about the need and demand for a proposed $2.4 million parking deck on South Potomac Street near The Maryland Theatre.

"We need a better sales pitch," Hagerstown Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said. Using the "build it and they will come" approach is a bit scary, he said.

The proposed 202-space, five-story deck, funded almost completely by government sources, would be built where the building that once housed the Double T stood before it was demolished.

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The Bowman Development Corp. plans to renovate the adjacent building, the former Tri-State Electric building, and a residential building adjacent to that, putting offices, businesses and apartments in the two buildings, city officials said.

While the parking deck would be adjacent to the Bowman renovation site, the city is treating them as separate projects, saying the deck is needed as part of the planned Hagerstown Arts and Entertainment District.

In a staff report to the council, Finance Director Alfred Martin wrote: "While redevelopment of this site and other developments in the Art and Entertainment District will obviously influence parking demand at this site, the level of expected demand is uncertain at this time."

Under the city's proposed financing plan, presented to the City Council Tuesday, Bowman would lease 50 spaces per month at market rates for the term of the deck's debt financing, which probably would be about 15 to 20 years.

That lease would guarantee a minimum of $24,000 to $30,000 in receipts a year, covering an estimated $20,000 in annual operating costs and some debt service, city officials said.

Community Development Director Debbie Everhart said that while there seems to be a great demand for the parking deck, there does not seem to be a large commitment from businesses other than Bowman to lease parking spaces.

Metzner said if city staff is having trouble selling the idea to the council, he expects it will be even harder to sell it to the public and to the County Commissioners, from whom the city will seek $250,000 for the project.

City staff members were instructed to return with a more detailed presentation on the need and expected use of the deck.

Metzner and Councilman Kristin Aleshire wondered whether it might make more sense to instead build a smaller, three-level parking deck for $800,000 less than the five-level deck.

Unlike the city's existing parking deck across from City Hall, the proposed deck would have meters instead of being staffed by a parking attendant, which would reduce operating costs, Martin said.

The existing parking deck on North Potomac Street cost about $4.4 million, with all of the money coming from government sources, Assistant Finance Director Ray Foltz said Monday. About $1.5 million in debt is outstanding on that structure, Foltz said.

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