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Consultants: Martinsburg parking garage not feasible in current economy

October 22, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Consultants told the Martinsburg City Council on Tuesday night that a 250-space downtown parking garage projected to cost about $4.8 million does not appear to be feasible given current economic conditions.

The presentation of findings by three firms involved in the parking garage study came minutes after the council agreed to spend $550,000 on property to move ahead with another major capital improvement project - expansion of City Hall and the police station.

The real estate deal between Berkeley American Legion Post 14 and the city for the Legion building at 125 W. Race St. and nearby parking area is expected to close Dec. 1.

Mayor George Karos said the purchase agreement formally approved by city leaders is "a big step forward" to addressing the ongoing space crunch at City Hall, where the police department is especially strained.

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"It's a long time coming," Karos said.

The two-floor City Hall building opened in the mid-1980s, but was not built to structurally support additional floors. The city's planning and engineering departments also have been increasingly pressed for space, officials have said.

The council on Tuesday separately agreed to allow the American Legion to occupy the property until June 30, 2009, as part of a $500-per-month lease agreement that Baldwin said gives the veterans organization time to find a new home. The American Legion in 2006 sold a parking lot to the city behind City Hall, which had been used by the municipality at no charge for a number of years, officials had said.

The agreement approved Tuesday would give the city an additional 36 to 40 parking spaces, Baldwin said.

The property behind City Hall was not selected as the best of six locations eyed for a parking garage because of limited accessibility and visibility from Queen Street shopping destinations, according to the feasibility study conducted by Frederick, Md.-based Proffitt & Associates Architects in conjunction with Walker Parking Consultants and View Engineering.

The consultants selected the city-owned East Burke Street parking lot as the best site for a four-level garage and could result in a net increase of 180 parking spaces. The feasibility study concluded that the cost of building an aesthetically pleasing facility would be $19,500 per parking space.

"Even if the parking garage is combined with the financial strength of the existing parking system, the hourly meter rates and monthly permit rates required to achieve a break-even point are not likely to be supported in Martinsburg's current economy," a summary of the feasibility study concluded.

"Needless to say, we're going to have make some decisions down the road," Karos after the feasibility study was presented.

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