More parking garages for downtown Columbus?

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Some people consider parking in downtown Columbus, well, a commodity. At times finding a place to park can be quite difficult, especially if there’s a big event in progress. Mayor Michael Coleman announced he wants to build two parking garages with construction starting this year.

Cars pass by the old Lazarus parking deck that sits empty on the corner of Front and Rich Streets in downtown Columbus. Jeremy Deeter from Columbus parked his car at a meter on Front Street – just down from the condemned parking garage. He put 90 cents in the meter and headed toward the Franklin County Courthouse.

“We got 50 minutes on this parking meter, and we have to walk all that distance,” Deeter said.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman wants to tear down the old Lazarus parking deck and build a new one in its place. The new garage would be eight levels with more than 770 spaces. Deeter said he likes the idea of a new parking garage, but the price to park in it is in the back of his mind.

“If there was an eight level parking garage there and it was too much, it wouldn’t matter a whole lot to us,” Detter said.

“It always has been kind of difficult,” Loleita Scales said.

Scales is a lifelong resident of Columbus and she just dropped some change in a parking meter along Rich Street. While she does not come downtown often, Scales said a couple new parking garage are a good idea.

“Meters are a headache. Everybody can agree to that. But I think the parking would be great for people I think it would draw more people downtown; it would be helpful for people who do work here,” Scales said.

Deborah Gaines is a transplant from Macon, Georgia. Gaines is in the entertainment industry. She said when she moved to Columbus 20 years ago the downtown area was in her words, “the happening place.” But now, as the director of a band, Gaines said it’s difficult to get people to come downtown to see any shows.

“There major reason is because of the parking. No one wants to come down here,” Gaines said.

Gaines called the mayor’s idea for two new garages a good economic push.

“If he is utilizing the space to bring in more people downtown, I think that could be, that’s a good thing,” Gaines said.

Coleman called parking in downtown Columbus a serious issue. He said it has hindered businesses from coming to Columbus, and he hopes the new garages will spark more economic growth.

“There are some parts of our downtown where there are massive surface parking lots and other parts of our downtown where you couldn’t buy a parking space if you had the money to do so, even if you had the money to do so. As a result, especially in areas that don’t have parking, it is a substantial reason why companies don’t relocate downtown because their employees can’t park,” Coleman said.

If approved by city council, the demolition of the empty Lazarus garage at Front and Rich Streets would begin in February. The garage would be ready for use by May 2009. It will cost $14 million.

The mayor says a second garage, with four levels and more than 680 spaces, is being discussed. It would serve the Fourth and Gay area. An exact location for that garage has not yet been decided. It would cost about $15 million.

Capitol South Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation manages about 6,000 parking spaces in downtown. The non-profit group will help design and build both of the parking garages.