Someone will have to give in parking garage stalemate

December 08, 2003|JOHN NELSON

There may, indeed, be signs that a parking garage project for downtown Danville is not a lost cause.

While Third Street Development has balked at two of the city's conditions for a bond issue, the non-profit corporation's president also took issue with a headline last week that declared those conditions "impossible." Janet Hamner had told a reporter the city's requirement that a prospective tenant for the Hub building put its commitment in writing - a commitment conditional upon the garage being built - was "not possible."

In a letter to the editor Sunday, Hamner expressed regret that the newspaper "assumed that our inability to meet each and every condition is a signal that the parking structure project will not advance."

There was no such assumption, but one thing is clear. Something, or someone, will have to give.

There are just three options. The city's conditions will be met. They will be changed. Or, they will be ignored.


One of the first two is most likely.

Hamner's letter implies that there may be some elasticity on one side or the other, though there didn't seem to be much when the city was told of a Nov. 30 deadline. It appeared clear at the time that the deadline applied to the prospective tenant's need to know whether a parking garage would be forthcoming. It turns out that the need-to-know date applied to Third Street's desire to have information in its hands for a December meeting with said tenant, whose identity remains a mystery.

A murky difference, but a difference nonetheless.

Just before Thanksgiving, the first clear lines were drawn. They had up until then been jagged and broken.

Third Street, with a crowd of supporters and the deadline stated, sought the city's endorsement of a bond issue for the garage. That endorsement would be contingent upon a $1.75 million federal grant, which should be available as soon as President Bush signs the budget into law.

It seemed so simple. But, no.

Under some pressure, the city agreed to the plan, even to begin the bonding paperwork, but tried to satisfy those against the project with three conditions: the written commitment from the tenant, an agreement from Third Street to subsidize losses the garage is expected to incur in its first years, and first refusal on the purchase of the Hub should Third Street put it up for sale.

There are lots of reasons that taxpayers should be keeping an eye on this whole set of circumstances. To this point, they are footing the bill:

* Taxpayers from across the state gave Danville $975,000. Danville gave it to Third Street, and $960,000, more than $300,000 above the property's appraised value, was paid for The Hub-Gilcher buildings.

* State taxpayers paid $315,000 for the parking lot behind the Hub on which the proposed parking garage would be built.

* State taxpayers paid for the studies which show how much revenue the garage is likely to generate and for the architectural drawings.

* Taxpayers from across the country will be paying part of the construction costs when the $1.75 million federal grant is finally awarded.

Based on that information, the argument that Third Street, or the tenants of the Hub, should cover the losses the garage incurs is not hard to swallow.

But the city's last condition is the most interesting. Mayor John Bowling would like Danville to have the opportunity to buy the Hub, if it is ever sold.

Remember him? He's the guy who, as a legislator, talked the state into forking over almost $1 million for the buildings in the first place.

His condition raises eyebrows, and questions. What would the city want with the building? Would it really pay for something it got for free and then gave away? Is Bowling hoping that scenario will develop?

Let's hope it doesn't. The best scenario is for Third Street to succeed, for a parking garage to be built, for downtown Danville to revitalize. If all of that happens, it will have been well worth the investment of tax dollars.

But something - or someone - is going to have to give.

Central Kentucky News Articles