Jefferson City might be getting a new parking garage soon to address a deficit in downtown parking.
Britt Smith, operation division director for the city's Department of Public Works, presented the results of a downtown parking study during last Thursday's Public Works and Planning Committee meeting.
In 2016, Jefferson City contracted with Rich and Associates to update the city's Parking Planning Study, focusing on the downtown area. The company was originally contracted in 1999 to do the study, and the city updated the plan internally between 2004 and 2005.
Rich and Associates studied a 37-block area bordered by Rex Whitton Expressway, Marshall and Bolivar streets, and the Missouri River.
The downtown area is short almost 1,500 parking spaces, according to the updated report. The 1999 study also found a deficit in parking.
There are currently 9,596 parking spaces in the downtown area, 2,800 of which are public spaces. The city manages and controls only 29 percent of the parking, while private parking makes up 71 percent of the downtown area — the state owns 37 percent, and the remaining 34 percent is owned by other private entities, according to the study.
To successfully manage municipal parking, Smith said, Jefferson City needs to control at least 50 percent of downtown area parking.
"That makes sense because then it can make strategic decisions for short-term and long-term, and you're having an effect on a large portion of the downtown area," he said. "When you get less than that 50 percent, you're only affecting a small percentage of the people parking there. For instance, when we have parking, we can say that the parking is free and open at night and it can be used for events and stuff; but we can't make those decisions about private parking because they're not ours."
Ward 3 Councilman Ken Hussey said the public can use some of the state-owned parking for big events and in the evenings.
Rich and Associates reported some members of the public and stakeholders said while these events attract people to the city, they can cause parking issues downtown.
Even if the study didn't take into account the state's downtown parking, Smith said, Jefferson City would still own less than half of downtown parking.
There are currently more than 40,000 square feet of building space and 31 residences vacant in the downtown area. If the city fills 80 percent of the vacant square footage and abandoned buildings, then the downtown area could be short more than 1,600 parking spaces, the report states.
The study found peak parking occupancy downtown is 9-11 a.m., with 11 a.m.-1 p.m. as a close second. However, even at peak occupancy, the report notes there is still about 50 percent of parking still available. Smith said this is most likely skewed because the available parking is farther away from high-demand areas like the Capitol.
During public and stakeholder meetings, several individuals agreed the downtown area needs more parking and downtown parking is hampering future development, the report states. They also said they thought a parking garage was needed in the area.
City staff recommended the city conduct a feasibility study for a new parking garage, which would include location analysis and construction and operational costs. The committee agreed the study constituted a feasibility study. Smith said they will start the study as soon as possible.
In 2014, the Jefferson City Council rejected a conference center proposal from Ehrhardt Hospitality Group which included a new city-built and operated garage. The 250-space garage was proposed for West McCarty Street, but city staff and some council members said they thought the location was not ideal because people would not want to walk up the hill from West McCarty Street to East High Street. City staff suggested at the time the proposed parking garage have 400-500 parking spaces.
A new parking garage would allow the city to increase available parking downtown and increase the percentage of downtown parking the city owns, Smith said.
"If we were to try to knock down a block of buildings to build a surface parking lot to get any size number of parking spaces, that would be counterproductive because we would be taking away our demand and then providing a supply. We're looking for a strategically located area that will have a minimal impact on existing buildings, and a garage will allow that," Smith said.
Providing more parking might help promote businesses, Smith said, because people won't be discouraged from going into businesses because of a lack of parking.
"The Parking Division's job is providing cost-effective parking to our customers; and our customers are not only the state worker working downtown, but it's the customers who go into the businesses and the employees of those businesses and the businesses themselves," he said. "Our job is to provide parking; and by promoting those businesses, our business grows."