Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer
Now that city officials have narrowed their preferred locations for a planned downtown parking deck, it’s time for Walton Arts Center officials to weigh in.
The Walton Arts Center Council voted on Tuesday to begin a process that will help them make a decision between the WAC Lot and the Theater Lot.
Board members approved a $50,000 budget to hire an architect to create a broad sketch of the deck at each proposed location.
Council members expressed worries about both locations, but were hopeful that engaging an architect who could utilize recently released research from theatre consulting firm Schuler Shook might make the choice more clear.
The primary concern with building on the WAC Lot is that it could severely inconvenience patrons during construction.
“While you’re building that deck, you give up the parking, but you also give up that parking revenue,” said Chamber of Commerce President Steve Clark, who also serves on the arts center’s board. “Also, the people that you would most inconvenience would be the patrons of the Walton Arts Center.”
Building on the Theater Lot raised even more concerns. The potential for blocking access to the theater’s loading dock, displacement of the center’s administrative offices, and the potential loss of about $70,000 in rent revenue the center receives from Grub’s Bar & Grille were all voiced by board members as potential problems. Board members also expressed concerns that building on the Theater Lot could prevent possible future expansion of the performing arts center on Dickson Street.
Board president Jeff Schomburger said those are precisely the types of problems an architect might be able to solve.
“One thing we want the (architect) to consider is the possibility that we could build the full monty on the Theater Lot. The parking, the offices, the reconfigured loading dock,” said Schomburger, “It might come back no, but at least we’ll have that data.”
Parking deck project manager David Jurgens said Wednesday that many of the issues discussed by the WAC board have been on his radar as a project manager all along. He also said he was was thrilled that the board chose to pursue a next-level-type analysis.
“I’m really looking forward to working with them on this,” he said. “I want to make sure their consultants are coming at it from a ‘we’ approach. If their interests are our interests, and I think they are, we should be able to come up with a consensus that works for all parties.”
Jurgens said he hopes to have a full report to the City Council on all aspects of the parking deck matter in 75-90 days.
“My goal,” he said, “is to provide as much data as we can to the council so they can make a fully informed, well-thought-out decision.”