City Council members have at least one more decision to make regarding the planned parking deck in downtown Fayetteville.
Construction of the three-story, 246-space deck was set to begin this spring at the south end of the Walton Arts Center campus, but cost constraints have scaled the project back a bit, and pushed the construction timeline into the summer.
Initial drawings called for a 3,500-square-foot liner building at the southeast corner of the parking deck at Spring Street and School Avenue, but those plans were removed to reduce project costs by about $250,000.
Aldermen this week discussed revised options for either a public patio that would replace the original liner building, or a scaled-back version of the liner building that could one day be finished out to include space for the city’s Parking Management Division and the Police Department.
Council members preferred the latter option, but also listened to a suggestion from Alderman Matthew Petty to include affordable row houses on the east side of the parking deck instead of an unfinished liner building.
“I like the (scaled-back liner building) idea, but if we can come up with something better before it’s too late…I think we should do everything we can to investigate that,” said Petty.
Even with the pared down liner building concept, the cost to construct the space would still be about $150 per square foot.
“That’s like upper middle class construction for unfinished space,” Petty said, “And that really gets me thinking maybe there’s a better way to use our tax dollars here.”
Petty suggested selling the 15-foot-wide section of land between the deck and School Avenue to Partners for Better Housing, a local nonprofit organization that promotes affordable housing for low- to moderate-income residents.
“These liner buildings can be very skinny and they still work,” said Rob Sharp, a local architect who serves as chair of Partners for Better Housing. “They’re one room deep and they go on for the entire city block.”
Sharp’s firm has designed two Dickson Street projects that include parking decks with liner buildings, including the Three Sisters building and The Dickson.
Aside from serving as a buffer between the street and the parking deck, Sharp said row houses would create a residential streetscape with a more pleasant, lively atmosphere. Having people live along School Avenue could also lead to improved security with so many more eyes on the street, he said.
Plus, Sharp said, it’s the perfect place for affordable housing.
The creative and service economies that make up an arts district bring both wealthy patrons of art, but also include those who make the art and provide services.
“There are a lot of people who make minimum wage in this area, so it would be a great place for them to live,” said Sharp.
An early draft of the plan includes designing 12 units, one third of which would be market rate, and two thirds that would be affordable to low-income renters. After design is complete, a developer and contractor with experience in affordable housing would be selected.
Mayor Lioneld Jordan said he liked the concept, but isn’t willing to delay the deck any longer.
“We do not want to slow down the process with this idea,” Sharp told the mayor and council members on Tuesday. He said whichever developer is chosen would be contractually bound to finish construction of the row houses within a year of deck completion.
Jeremy Pate, the city’s development services director, said the construction of the deck could theoretically move forward without interruption, regardless of which concept aldermen eventually choose.
If the row house concept works out, he said, the city could issue a change order to halt construction of the liner building and hand the project off to the yet-to-be-named private developer. If not, construction could continue as planned.
Council members will likely consider official support for the idea at their Feb. 18 meeting.
Amended Project Timeline
Complete preliminary design – February/March
Selection process for Walton Arts Center temporary office location – February
Final design and cost estimates – April/May
Solicit construction bids – June
Walton Arts Center office move to temporary location – mid/late-June
Award construction contract – July
Construction begins – Summer 2014
Construction complete – Summer 2015