Former Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody suggests alternate parking deck location

Photo by Todd Gill / Enlarge
Former Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody is interviewed outside the council chambers Tuesday night at City Hall.

A familiar voice was amplified through the speaker system inside City Hall Tuesday night when Dan Coody took to the podium during a regular meeting of the Fayetteville City Council.

He returned to City Hall Wednesday morning marking the first time we’ve seen him inside the building on consecutive days since he was Mayor of Fayetteville.

His agenda? It’s hard to say with certainty.

Coody, who held office for eight years before losing a re-election bid to Lioneld Jordan in 2008, told the Northwest Arkansas Times that his recently voiced concerns over a hot local topic aren’t politically motivated, so we’ll have to take him on his word that he’s simply a taxpayer worried about a multi-million dollar parking deck project.

Fair enough. After all, we are talking about a garage at least five stories tall that would likely become a part of Fayetteville’s downtown skyline.

Coody isn’t suggesting the deck plan to be scrapped, nor has he been very firm with an initial concern he said he had over the timing of Mayor Jordan’s financing plan.

Instead, Coody says the mayor’s self appointed parking deck committee is overlooking a prime location for the deck, one that he says would be closer to the Walton Arts Center, less expensive to build, offer more parking than the current favored plan and most surprisingly, it would be invisible.

“Of the three sites you’ve been given to choose from, West and Spring is the best,” said Coody, referring to the committee’s recent agreement that the existing lot across from Grub’s Bar & Grille is the best choice for building a deck.

“But there’s a fourth site that I really think should be considered for the longterm benefit of the community,” he said.

The location? Underneath the main Walton Arts Center parking lot at the corner of Dickson Street and West Avenue.

Coody said an underground level of parking could be built for much less than a normal subterranean structure due to the unique topography of the site which was originally lower than the current street level.

In fact, he said a similar plan was discussed 20 years ago when the Walton Arts Center was first built, but instead, the choice was made to fill the area in with dirt and build only one level of parking.

Coody estimated his plan would add about 270 spaces to the Dickson Street area as opposed to the 235 that a 300-space deck would add if built on the existing 65-space lot at Spring and West.

He also said the cost of his plan could be as much as half a million dollars less than Jordan’s plan.

Mayor Jordan has said multiple times that he would not consider putting a deck in the main Walton Arts Center lot. “It’s not going to happen,” said Jordan in September at the parking deck committee’s first meeting. “We’re floating bonds on the (paid parking) revenue stream and when you start cutting that thing in half, you’re going to lose a lot of revenue.”

Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce President Steve Clark, who also serves on the mayor’s deck committee, said that while the group should be open to all proposals, it needs to consider the impact each plan would have on the parking situation during construction. “For the businesses in the entertainment district, a year without a lot of parking would be–it just would not work,” said Clark.