The city of Lincoln is considering building two parking garages in the downtown area in the near future, one in the West Haymarket and one in southeast downtown.

The city has hired Walker Parking Consultants to do a marketing and financial analysis on the two sites for garages that would add 1,300 to 1,500 parking stalls.

The consultants will look at the locations and the financial feasibility of building one or two new parking garages using revenue bonds, financed using city parking revenue, according to David Landis, director of the Urban Development Department.

“We are certain we can afford one new parking garage,” Landis said. “But can we afford two?”

The contract document gives specific locations for the two garages, but the southeast downtown spot is not a certainty, according to Landis.

One garage is planned for city-owned property on the southwest corner of Canopy and N streets. The estimated $15 million cost for the 600- to 700-space garage would be shared between the city and a third party, according to the contract.

Planning for this garage assumes the city has an agreement to provide 340 of the 385 spaces in the city’s Market Place Garage, at 10th and Q streets, to patrons of the proposed City Centre project, according to the contract.

City Centre is a proposed project by New York developers to replace the Journal Star building at Ninth and P streets with a multistory complex that includes retail, offices, parking and apartments. The Market Place Garage is next to the Journal Star location. 

The southeast downtown garage would be on the north side of L Street, between 13th and 14th streets, according to information in the contract. That location has branch offices for U.S. Bank and First National Bank.

That $25 million garage would have 700 to 800 parking spaces, according to the contract.

“It is premature to say that is the only location” for a southeast downtown garage, Landis said in a telephone interview.

The goal is to find a strategic location in this area and get current owners to sell the land, "and that is a big if," Landis said.

Walker Parking Consultants, a national consulting firm, is being asked to look at two scenarios: both garages opening in January 2021, or the West Haymarket garage opening in January 2020 and the other garage opening in January 2021.

The city owns nine garages and manages another three tied to Pinnacle Bank Arena, providing about 8,000 spaces, according to Wayne Mixdorf, the city’s parking manager.

Arena garages in the Haymarket area are filling up faster than city staff thought, Landis said. 

Several years ago, if Paul McCartney wasn’t singing "Penny Lane" at Pinnacle Bank Arena, there would be empty first-floor stalls at the arena garages, Landis said.

That isn’t true anymore, he said.

The city parking service has some debt — about $25.6 million — for two of the nine city-owned garages: the Larson Building at 1317 Q, and the Lumberworks Garage at 700 N St.

The city has no debt on the older garages and uses some of the parking income from those garages to pay off the bonds for the new structures. 

Lincoln’s parking system, unlike many other cities', does not rely on any tax dollars, said Landis.

The profitability of the system can probably be equally attributed to the steady growth in the downtown area that allowed for good planning as to when garages were necessary, and a relatively conservative attitude about the amount of money to be spent on building garages, Mixdorf said.

"It was a fortuitous combination of good, steady growth and relatively conservative fiscal management."

The consultant's analysis, under an $86,900 contract, is "part of the due diligence for making sure we can afford to build up to two new garages," Landis said.

The timing and final decisions will be based on what consultants tell the city and the availability of land, he said.

"In the event we find people who are willing to sell us land, we will move as expeditiously as we can. What we need more than anything else are willing sellers,” he said. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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