Editorial: City must take the logical next step, approve bond issue

November 23, 2003

The Danville City Commission has nothing to gain and everything to lose by delaying a decision on whether to issue bonds for a multi-level downtown parking garage.

While hesitancy in making a decision on such a large project is understandable, in this case it is simply not justified.

The proposal that the city issue bonds for a parking garage is a logical step in the effort to develop the empty Hub-Gilcher buildings that began shortly after the closing of the Hub Frankel department store in 1995.

First, the city purchased the parking lot behind the Hub and began renting spaces there. Later, John W.D. Bowling, then our state representative, obtained state funding of nearly $1 million to purchase the Hub-Gilcher buildings from a private developer. The city then turned the project over to the non-profit developer, Third Street Development Corporation.


Realizing that the buildings couldn't be developed without additional parking, Third Street Development and the Heart of Danville began working to obtain additional state and federal grants to build a parking structure. Their efforts were supported by the City Commission every step of the way, including the city's purchase with grant money of the adjacent parking lot earlier this year for more than $300,000.

Heart of Danville and Third Street Development were remarkably successful in getting state and federal funding. As the result of their efforts, a $4.9 million, 294-space garage would now cost the city only $2.1 million, or a $4.4 million, 251-space garage would cost the city only $1.6 million. That's a bargain if we've ever seen one.

Furthermore, the City Commission authorized an engineering study, called "City of Danville, Parking Garage Planning and Design, Operating and Financial Analysis," which presents credible financial projections showing that after two or three years - depending on the size of the garage to be built - the garage will begin to generate enough revenue to pay off the bonds and will ultimately make a profit. It should be noted that this is not Heart of Danville's or Third Street Development's study, it's the City of Danville's study.

On Nov. 10, Heart of Danville and Third Street Development brought to the mayor and city commissioners a proposal that they go ahead and express their intent to issue bonds contingent upon final approval of the federal budget, which includes a $1.75 million grant for the project. The developers told city officials they have a prospective tenant who would lease nearly a quarter of the available space but would not do so unless sufficient parking is guaranteed.

Some have referred to the prospective renter as a "mystery" tenant, but it is no "mystery" to the mayor and city commissioners. They were given the tenant's identity in an executive session on Nov. 10. They have all of the facts they need upon which to base a decision.

After all of the work that has been put into developing these buildings, which truly make up the "heart" of our town, with local banks ready to finance the rehabilitation of the property, with the grant money virtually in hand, with the outpouring of support the project has received in the nearly two weeks since Nov. 10, with credible evidence that the parking structure is financially viable and even a bargain, with the city's - and Mayor Bowling's - record of past support for this project, how can the City Commission hesitate now? It's time to take the next step.

As the old saying goes, he who hesitates is lost, and we fear more than just $2.4 million in grant money would be lost if the city hesitates now. Perhaps more importantly, the momentum for preserving and developing downtown Danville would suffer a grievious blow from which it might not recover.

Central Kentucky News Articles