story by Scott Davis, special to The City Wire
The City of Fayetteville is asking the public for input in picking the site for a new parking deck to be constructed in Fayetteville’s Dickson Street entertainment district.
The city is hosting two 90-minute public sessions April 4 at the Walton Arts Center — beginning at 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. City officials and engineers will lead walking tours to the nearby sites.
One site is adjacent to the Walton Arts Center and requires removal of the building at 220 N. West Ave. that houses Grubs Bar and Grille. Another includes the current WAC parking lots. The two other sites are adjacent to the south and east of the theater site, officials said. (See map image below or in photo box.)
After the tour, the city’s parking deck team — including officials from Garver Engineers, AFHJ + Kb Architecture, and Carl Walker Parking Consultants — will be available to answer questions. The discussion will not include design of the future municipal parking deck because location will strongly influence the deck’s design, officials said.
City officials have offered to validate parking tickets to allow for free parking for anyone who attends the public input session.
Fayetteville Utilities Director David Jurgens said the parking deck is a project that requires an on-site inspection and close consideration of many factors to best evaluate, he said.
Jurgens has helped plan and supervise the building of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public construction projects, but none of them are as difficult to envision with aerial photos as this parking deck.
Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan said public input is important and he encouraged “everyone to come out” and get a close look at the sites.
“This is a public deck, and the public is important to this process and a successful municipal deck,” Jordan said.
The city expects to collect about $900,000 this year from entertainment district parking, said Paul Becker, the city’s finance director. This revenue stream will be used to repay construction bonds expected to net the city about $5.6 million, he said.
The city plans to build as many parking spaces as funding allows, probably about 250 or 300, he said. Once a site has been selected engineers are able to make more accurate cost estimates, he explained.
City officials have faced criticism from business owners and patrons over the impact on businesses from the mandatory paid parking along Dickson Street.
Becker said sales tax figures would verify if paid parking has negatively affected business.
In 2011, the city recorded $34.080 in sales tax collections according to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. That was up compared to $32.471 million in 2010, and up $32.205 million in 2009.
However, tax collections are not detailed by a region within a city or by establishments, meaning that collection gains or losses aren’t wholly reliable indicators of a specific action or policy.