Plans to build an underground parking garage in downtown Greenwood have been set aside for now, as city officials are having conversations with developers and are waiting for more specific financial details about those projects.
Even by withdrawing that plan, a proposal to expand the list of projects which the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission can fund narrowly passed a first vote by the Greenwood City Council, with four members voting against the outline.
Questions about the projects included concerns about how they would be funded and parking availability.
Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers unveiled plans earlier this year for upward of $30 million in investments in downtown Greenwood. The main projects included an improved Old City Park, a reconstructed Madison Avenue, development at the Greenwood Middle School and an underground parking garage to be built where a parking lot currently sits north of the Greenwood City Building.
By building an underground parking garage, the city will make room for developers to construct apartments, offices, restaurants and stores in the heart of downtown Greenwood at the southwest intersection of Main Street and Madison Avenue.
Myers described the parking garage as a great idea, but acknowledged concerns from council members, including Chuck Landon, who had been asking for more financial details and the expected return on the investment.
Myers cited those concerns as being the reason the city decided to temporarily withdraw the request to include the parking garage on a list of projects that the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission could fund with property taxes collected in its tax increment financing, or TIF, districts.
The council voted 8-1 to amend the plan to remove the underground parking garage. Linda Gibson voted against the amendment.
By taking out the plans for the underground parking garage, which initial estimates put at about $11 million to construct, the total cost of the downtown improvements drops from more than $30 million to about $20 million.
At the prior council meeting, Landon had requested specific details about how a $11 million underground parking garage would be financially feasible.
He said he isn’t against the project, but that he wants information such as projections on how much property tax revenue will come in from the apartments, businesses and stores planned to be built at ground level on top of the parking garage.
Because the city is still in preliminary talks with some developers, those details aren’t immediately available, Myers said.
“Developers are searching for us,” he said. “I’ve already met with two this week that were interested, they were specifically interested in that parcel and disappointed it was put off.”
Myers declined to say who the developers were, saying they didn’t want their names released yet. He hopes to facilitate some meetings between council members and the developers at a later date.
A timeline for when the parking garage would be considered again hasn’t been set, and will mostly be determined by developer interest in that property, Myers said.
Landon said he would support the parking garage if the quantifiable benefits to the city, such as property tax increases from nearby developments, are clear.
“Underground parking might be the cheapest thing to do to satisfy requirements of businesses,” he said.
The impact of the proposed downtown projects on above ground parking also remained an issue for a church and library located in the middle of the developments.
Our Lady of the Greenwood Church has shared parking with the Greenwood Middle School, but when the middle school is demolished and the area is redeveloped, church members are concerned about not having enough places to park.
The city is talking with church leaders to negotiate a deal to share public parking with the church, city attorney Krista Taggart said.
Because the government can’t favor one religious group over another by giving the church access to future downtown public lots without requiring anything in return, any deal with the church would likely include some agreement for the church’s existing parking to be available for public use at times, she said.
The council also considered a request from the Greenwood Public Library that would keep an additional dozen parking spots in a public parking lot routinely used by library patrons. The proposed connector road between Market Plaza and Surina Way would require the removal of some parking spots at a city-owned lot west of the library. City staff are working to see if some of those spots could be saved.
The redevelopment commission decides how to spend TIF district funds, and it can only spend funds on an approved list of projects. Those lists, which are created when the districts are formed, don’t include the recently proposed downtown projects, as well as a couple other projects elsewhere in the city. Adding projects to the list requires approval of the city council.
The council voted 5-4 to gives its first approval the amended version of the plans and will need to vote again at its next meeting to gives its final approval. Members Bruce Armstrong, Brent Corey, Linda Gibson and David Hopper voted against it.
Corey cited a lack of information about how the redevelopment commission will fund the projects as the reason he voted against. He wants the city to provide, in writing, a description of the different means it could pay for the projects and what impact it would have on the city’s TIF districts.
Most of the projects could be paid for in cash, without a need to for a council-approved loan, Taggart said.
The Greenwood Redevelopment Commission is considering adding onto its list of projects that can be funded with TIF district dollars. Here is a list of what is being considered, along with an estimate of what the project will cost. The council voted Monday to remove plans for an $11 million underground parking garage at the parking lot north of the city building.
Madison Avenue reconstruction: $12.5 million
Old City Park improvements: $4.6 million
Market Plaza and Surina Way connector road: $2.6 million
Improvements to Main and Meridian Streets intersection: $800,000
Madison Avenue and Smith Valley Roundabout: $1 million
Infrastructure development to properties east of Interstate 65, along Main Street and County Line Road: $3 million