Durham County moving forward with downtown parking decks with affordable housing
The red circles on this Durham County map show the areas for proposed parking decks. Courtesy of Durham County BY VIRGINIA BRIDGES email@example.com
Durham, September 13, 2016
Durham County leaders are moving forward with a plan to establish public-private partnerships to build two downtown parking decks that would include affordable housing and retail space.
County commissioners unanimously voted Monday night to request qualifications from companies interested in partnering with the county to build the mixed-use projects on the 300 and 500 blocks of East Main Street.
The project on the 300 block would be built on the existing parking lot across the street from the Durham Housing Authority and between Main and Liberty streets.
The project on the 500 block would be built on the existing lot across from the county’s Human Services Complex.
The community coalition Durham Congregations, Associations, and Neighborhoods has been pushing for developments that include affordable housing on the properties.
The Monday night vote allows county officials to gauge interest in the proposal and process, which will have to include figuring out the structure of the private and public partnership and exploring construction possibilities on the two county lots.
Jay Gibson, the county’s director of Engineering and Environmental Services, said downtown county employees were using 91 percent of their 1,298 spaces in 2015. An ideal usage rate would be 75 to 80 percent, Gibson said.
To address future needs and sustain a goal of an 85 percent utilization rate, the county would need to increase its parking spaces by 457 by 2025 and 850 spaces by 2035.
The decks are also needed to address a general parking crunch downtown and to accommodate projects such as the renovation of the former judicial building and the renovation and expansion of the main library downtown. The library’s expansion could include an outdoor amphitheater, which could consume some of the existing parking spaces.
Gibson suggested the county move forward first with a request for qualifications for the parking deck on the 300 block of East Main Street, which is closer to the library and the judicial building.
That parking deck could fit about 900 spaces, Gibson said. However, Gibson recommended moving forward with a 600- to 800-space deck and a yet-to-be determined amount of space for affordable housing and ground-floor retail.
Some commissioners criticized the presentation’s emphasis on parking spaces, while not giving specifics on affordable housing.
Commissioner Wendy Jacobs pointed out that nearly two-thirds of Durham County employees are considered low-income households.
“Many of us have made it very clear for a long time that we were concerned about incorporating housing in this parking lot as well as the other one,” Jacobs said. “I am really surprised that the staff presentation was focused on parking.”
County Manager Wendell Davis said staff is considering housing and retail, but the county’s focus is providing enough parking for its downtown facilities.
In November, Charlotte-based CitiSculpt presented a plan with a roughly 900-space parking deck, affordable housing, and retail and office space on the lot that currently has about 400 spaces between the Human Services Complex and the future headquarters of the Durham Police Department.
Gibson’s presentation Monday focused on the lot on the 300 block of East Main, but commissioners voted to seek requests for qualifications on both lots.
The process could take about three months. The commissioners will have to approval the final contract.