Fayetteville council reconsiders and approves parking deck construction contract

Depot Lot / Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Construction of a replacement parking deck can now move forward as part of the city’s cultural arts corridor project.

City Council members on Tuesday voted 5-2 to approve a construction change order contract for cost overages associated with the deck. The council last week voted 3-3 on the item, which caused it to fail, but Council Member D’Andre Jones later requested to reconsider his “no” vote, which led to a special meeting and a second vote.

This time, Jones voted in favor of the contract, and with Sonia Harvey also casting a yes vote, the resolution passed. Harvey was absent for the original vote on Dec. 7. Others voting in favor were Sloan Scroggin, Sarah Bunch and Holly Hertzberg.

Mark Kinion and Teresa Turk voted against the item at both meetings.

The parking deck is set for construction on the Depot Lot at the northwest corner of Dickson Street and West Avenue. It will replace the 290-space lot across the street known locally as the Walton Arts Center parking lot. The arts center lot is set to be removed and replaced with an outdoor park and civic plaza as part of the cultural arts corridor project.

Money for the project will come from the bond issue that voters approved in 2019. The bond measure stipulated that redevelopment of the arts center lot could not begin until all of the lot’s 290 parking spaces are replaced and ready for use.

Parking deck design concept by Olsson, Inc. (see more images)

The deck will cost about $3.2 million more than what was originally estimated in 2018 when officials anticipated it at $10 million. City staff recently said the pandemic has contributed to rising costs for construction projects because of labor and supply shortages. As a result, recent bids from construction contractors came in higher than expected.

Money for the initial $10 million will come from the bond issue. The remainder will come from $2.9 million of the city’s nearly $12 million in reserves, and another $300,000 will come from street funds.

An initial construction contract for the project was approved by the council in March. It includes the purchase of about one-half acre of the Depot Lot, and calls for the city to pay $250,000 to developers Greg House and Ted Belden, along with $100,000 to the Bank of Fayetteville for the land needed to build the five-story parking deck where 330 spaces are planned.

With the contract now in place, the land deal can move forward and will close in the next few days, said Chief of Staff Susan Norton.

During Tuesday’s special meeting, several Dickson Street business people spoke in favor of the contract’s approval, including Brian Crowne, owner of George’s Majestic Lounge, and Jerry Davis, general manager for 21st Amendment, Los Bobos Taqueria, West End and Roger’s Rec.

The 290-space parking lot across from the Walton Arts Center / Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Peter Lane, President and CEO of the Walton Arts Center, said it’s critical that the deck get started so that the arts corridor can move forward. The project, he said, was approved by voters who are expecting the vision for the corridor to come to fruition.

“We have been working on this for over three years,” Lane said. “It’s now time.”

Harvey agreed with Lane and said the deck project needs to move forward as soon as possible since the arts corridor project across the street can’t even begin until the deck is built. The project will be a boon for local arts, she said, but not until it’s complete.

“Investing in this deck is investing in the creative economy,” said Harvey.

Kinion said he thinks the project will be great for the arts, but the public-private relationship the city is getting into with the parking deck deal has always concerned him, he said, and he would’ve liked more discussion about why the developers aren’t responsible for at least some of the cost overruns.

“It’s a matter of fiscal responsibility,” said Kinion.

Civic plaza preliminary rendering (enlarge)

Turk said she, too, is a supporter of the arts, but she doesn’t think the location of the deck was fairly evaluated from he start. The swapping of the properties still gives her pause, she said, and that’s why she’ll continue to object to the deck’s construction on the Depot Lot.

“There are many components of this deal that I don’t think were made transparently,” Turk said. “Those issues should’ve been discussed much more openly.”

Bunch disagreed, and said the council talked for hours about all the possible locations for the lot before making a decision.

“I feel like we had quite a few meetings about the different parts of the contracts,” Bunch said. “I think it’s the best location, and it’s unfortunate that there are cost overruns, but we need to move forward on it.”