Recommendation for Dickson Street parking deck location coming soon

Staff photo

City officials are close to deciding on where to build a new parking deck to replace what’s known as the Walton Arts Center parking lot.

Replacing the lot is the first step in the process of building the planned Cultural Arts Corridor, which is one of several projects included in a $226 million bond issue approved by voters in April. The corridor would include a new public gathering and event space in the downtown area, among other amenities.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan promised voters before the election he would replace the 298 parking spaces that would be lost in the construction of the corridor project with a new parking deck somewhere in the Dickson Street area.

Garver Engineers in March completed a study (PDF) that explored nine options on five potential sites for the deck, and city officials have narrowed it down to three locations.

The finalists are the privately-owned parking lot at the northwest corner of Dickson and West Avenue that’s home to businesses like Bank of Fayetteville’s train bank and Arsaga’s at the Depot (Depot Lot); the city-owned parking lot next to Kingfish on School Avenue (East Lot); and the property currently home to Nadine Baum Studios across from TheatreSquared.

Depot Lot

Garver explored two options for the Depot Lot. The first option would put a deck on the back portion of the property that occupies the space currently used for parking directly in front of Arsaga’s at the Depot. Another section of the deck would extend behind the Scarpino building toward the Razorback Greenway trail. This option would require a 4.5-level deck with a 2-story liner building, and would displace 105 current spaces, but add 434 with a net gain of 329 spaces. Advantages of this option, according to the report, are its proximity to the Walton Arts Center, that the south end of the lot would remain open for future development, and that no existing structures would be removed or relocated.

Options for the Depot Lot / City of Fayetteville, courtesy Garver Engineers (enlarge)

The fact that the Depot Lot includes privately-owned parcels and would require acquisition of the property or some other arrangement is listed as one of the disadvantages of this location. The impact on current businesses in the area, such as limiting the visibility of Arsaga’s and the need to reconfigure the entrance to the train bank, are another drawback listed in the report.

The second option would require the full Depot Lot, including the space currently home to the train bank. This option calls for a 3.5-level deck with multiple liner buildings, including moving the train bank to the front of the lot as its own liner building. It would displace 113 current spaces, but add 436 spaces, for a net gain of 318 spaces.

Advantages of this second option would be the creation of liner building spaces near Dickson Street, and the need for less levels to the deck, creating a shorter structure that officials think would blend better with the surrounding area.

Disadvantages of this option are similar to the partial lot option above, including creating visibility challenges for the existing businesses on the lot including Arsagas, Chipotle, and Rendezvous Hookah Lounge. The lot would also require relocation of the historic train bank, effectively removing the bank’s drive thru.

Gary Hudson, CEO/President of Farmers & Merchants Bank which owns Bank of Fayetteville, said there are currently no plans to sell the site where the train branch is located.

The rest of the East Lot and the buildings currently home to Arsaga’s, Chipotle, and Rendezvous Hookah Lounge are owned by Fayetteville Depot LLC, a company operated by locals Greg House and Beverly Block.

Sterling Hamilton, commercial real estate agent and associate with Cushman & Wakefield/Sage Partners who represents Block and House, confirmed over the weekend that the city and his client have been in talks about potential development of the lot.

“The city and the landowner are in a very productive conversation concerning a transaction,” Hamilton said. “The major deal points have been agreed to such as price, consideration, and historic preservation. It’s now about working out the details around design, finance, and process.”

Rumors have spread on social media in recent weeks that the building currently home to Arsaga’s at the Depot would be demolished to make way for the parking deck, but officials said Thursday that isn’t likely to happen.

“The Depot Lot in the layout we are currently working with is not that dissimilar to what we saw (with the Garver report) in March,” said Peter Nierengarten, the city’s sustainability director who’s in charge of the project. “That would keep the Arsaga’s building right where it is.”

Hamilton also addressed the rumors.

“The old warehouse building which his home to Arsaga’s will be preserved,” Hamilton said. “This is a deal point that has already been agreed to.”

Still, Arsaga’s owner Cary Arsaga said he is worried about the future of his restaurant if the deck were to be built in the Depot Lot.

“I feel like it could destroy my business if it was hidden behind a parking deck,” he said. “And I wouldn’t want to be trying to operate there during construction.”

Arsaga’s said he also has concerns about the building.

“I love that building,” he said. “My preference would be that things would stay the way they are, and Arsaga’s at the Depot could continue there forever, but I guess I know that isn’t very likely. I know the property is eventually going to be developed.”

Arsaga said he still has two years left on his lease, and that he hopes he would at least be offered a buyout of his remaining term if the deck were to be built in front of his business.

East Lot

Another potential site – and the most likely contender with the Depot Lot – is the East Lot on School Avenue. Garver explored one option that would include the entire site and another that would use just a portion of the lot. The full-site option would require a 3.5-level deck, displacing 59 current spaces for a total of 390 spaces, netting 331. Advantages to this option would be a shorter deck, the creation of liner building space, and the ability to have entrances onto different levels utilizing the site’s sloping topography.

Options for the East Lot / City of Fayetteville, courtesy Garver Engineers (enlarge)

Disadvantages of the full-site option include the required acquisition and removal of several residential structures on the south end of the site. This option would also create the longest walk to the Walton Arts Center, according to the report.

A partial-site option on the East Lot would leave the residential properties intact, but would require a 4-level deck. This option would create roughly the same amount of parking spaces, displacing 59 but adding 389 for a net of 330. The city owns all the property needed for this option, which is its main advantage. Along with distance from the WAC, another disadvantage listed is that this option would require an entrance/exit into a one-lane alley on the east side of the property.

Nadine Baum site

The final option still on the table is the site currently home to Nadine Baum Studios. Nierengarten, however, said that the challenges associated with the site make it the most unlikely among those still being considered.

Nadine Baum levels / City of Fayetteville, courtesy Garver Engineers (enlarge)

The site is jointly owned by the city and the University of Arkansas, and is leased by the Walton Arts Center. Building a parking deck on this site would require the city to replace the building, Nierengarten said.

“There are some City Council members who’ve said they prefer that location, so it’s still being considered,” he said. “But at this point, and for all practical purposes, it has mostly been eliminated.”

Nierengarten said the final decision will likely come down to how the details of the terms to acquire the property on the Depot Lot. He said he expects to bring a recommendation to the City Council sometime in November.