Depot Lot / Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer
It’s too early to tell, but it appears the City Council may be asked to consider at least one change to the concepts it was first shown for a new parking deck on the Depot Lot in downtown Fayetteville.
City Attorney Kit Williams on Tuesday told the council he’d met with engineers and landowners to begin negotiations for the public-private partnership, which would include construction of a parking structure at the northwest corner of West Avenue and Dickson Street.
Council members last week approved a proposal to move forward with contract negotiations on the Depot Lot, but left open the opportunity to build a deck on the city-owned East Lot next to Kingfish on School Avenue as a second option.
The upcoming Cultural Arts Corridor project includes redeveloping the existing Walton Arts Center parking lot, and a voter-approved bond measure stipulated that redevelopment could not begin until replacement parking is built and ready for use.
The current proposal includes purchasing a portion of the Depot Lot from Greg House’s Fayetteville Depot, LLC and the Bank of Fayetteville. The purchase would also include a land swap that would give House 0.2 acres to build a mixed-use structure on the north end of the current WAC lot.
Williams said a finalized contract won’t come until later this month, but he wanted the members to know about a few things that were brought up this week – one that might conflict with the council’s vision for the area.
“I didn’t come to any conclusions, but I thought I should let you know what they’re thinking about,” said Williams.
For starters, an early drawing presented in early January showed commercial space labeled as a “liner building” on the east side of the deck near West Avenue.
Liner buildings are commonly used in public areas to add space for commercial or residential uses, but also to provide a shield from something less desirable such as a parking deck.
Williams said Greg House told him he’d prefer something different.
“At this point, they’re really not proposing a liner building,” said Williams. “They’re proposing to build underneath the parking deck.”
House’s desire, Williams said, is to use the entire first floor of the deck as commercial space, and possibly part of the second floor.
While the city’s bond attorney believes it’s legally possible for a private developer to spend their own money to build within the public-owned deck, Williams said he’s disappointed to see the absence of a liner building.
“Now we’ll have to dress up the (east side of the) deck instead of covering it up with a liner building,” said Williams.
Early concepts also included a five-story, 100-room hotel on the south end of the Depot Lot.
Williams said he was concerned about where hotel patrons would park, considering that the studies which showed a need for a 400-space parking deck didn’t account for a new hotel in the area.
“If a hotel comes and doesn’t build their own deck, it will be somewhat difficult to keep their customers and workers from using our deck,” said Williams.
He said there’s been some discussion by House about building another deck farther away, but even if a second deck was built, there’s no way to guarantee that hotel patrons would use it.
“When you’re right next to a public parking deck, unless we charge a lot of money, I think people who are staying at the hotel would want to use the one right next door,” said Williams.
One way to solve that, he said, could be for House to build additional levels on top of the city’s deck that are dedicated specifically for hotel use.
Air Space Rights
The proposal originally presented to the council included preservation of the train depot building that’s currently home to Chipotle, and the former freight building where Arsaga’s is located today.
Williams said House told him the plan is still for both buildings to remain intact, but that he wants to keep the air space above them for possible future use.
“He wants to reserve his rights to build on top (of the buildings),” Williams said, adding that anything built wouldn’t be physically touching the buildings, but that they could be potentially covered with development space.
Several council members and Mayor Lioneld Jordan expressed opposition to that idea.
“If we’re supposed to think of that as anything other than absurd, then I hope it comes with some future concept sketches so I can think of what on Earth that could be,” said Council Member Kyle Smith.
Williams said there’s plenty left to do before anything final is presented.
“Nothing is clear or solid at this point in time,” he said, and added that a public-private partnership always has its own set of difficulties to overcome. “It’s much more complex when you’re dealing with something like this,” he said.
Williams said House might want to address the council at the Feb. 11 agenda-setting session to present his case for some of the ideas he’s floated to this point.
And while the plan is to negotiate a deal that the council will like, Williams said it’s still a possibility to build a deck on the city-owned East Lot.
“We certainly have that as a fallback position,” he said, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a loss for House.
“He’s still got some really valuable land that he can develop up to seven stories now by right,” said Williams. “There will be big buildings on that property, regardless.”