October 2, 2000

Ithaca Proposes Parking Study

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As the construction of new facilities downtown is underway and developer interest in Collegetown is growing, so is the need for more parking.

The Common Council Budget and Administration Committee sought approval last Wednesday to fund a study exploring the possibilities of expanding old parking garages or constructing new ones downtown and in Collegetown.

“The current facilities we own downtown and in Collegetown are at or above functional capacity, and a number of new projects have been proposed that will need parking,” said H. Matthys Van Cort, director of Planning and Development for the city of Ithaca.

These projects downtown include the Cornell office building which is currently underway, the Hilton Hotel proposal and developer interests expressed in other projects. Developers are also interested in expanding in Collegetown so that area is also at the forefront.

“The city has taken on the responsibility for parking and has to find ways to increase parking supply once projects go ahead,” Van Cort said.

“The Downtown Partnership had asked the city to look at parking even before the Cornell building was announced,” said Susan Blumenthal, ’78, third ward and chair of the planning and economic development committee of the common council.

“We need to get moving because the Cornell building is underway and we want to respond,” Blumenthal said.

The parking garages downtown on Green St. and Seneca St. were built using post tension structures, Van Cort explained. This means wires are installed in the pipes and then the concrete is poured. Before it hardens, the wires are pulled and the concrete is put into compression. This close tensioning lessens the weight and the cost of the structures, he said.

Downtown there are three choices: to reconstruct or enlarge the Green Street parking garage, build a new one east or south of the new county library, or add one on the block bounded by Seneca, State, Albany and Geneva Streets, according to Van Cort. Engineers will look at the garage on Green Street and determine if it will be expanded or a new one will be constructed.

“The downtown garage is 25 years old and expensive to maintain,” Blumenthal said. “Technology has advanced over the years and there are economies gained by building a new one at Green Street.”

The structure in Collegetown was built in the early 1980s and a coating that prevents salt and water damage was used to strengthen the concrete, Van Cort said.

“The Collegetown garage is in good condition,” Blumenthal said. “The issue there is the capacity. Many people feel it was undersized so they are looking at the cost of adding more floors. It wasn’t structurally built to handle more than it does, but we’ll look at that option,” Blumenthal said.

The three possibilities in Collegetown include: adding more floors to the existing parking garage on Dryden Road and behind Eddygate, putting a new parking garage in the middle of the block of Eddy St., College Ave., Dryden Rd. and Catherine St., or engaging in a cooperative arrangement with Cornell to build a jointly owned facility on the Cornell owned lot at Stewart and Williams Streets, according to Van Cort.

The city will hire engineers to investigate these possibilities. What will be occurring will be a heavy-duty analysis of the alternatives,” he said.

As of present, the city has spoken with a couple of engineers and engineering firms to get a sense of the range of cost which is between $50,000 and $75,000. The cost of the project depends on the amount of information regarding conditions of soil and existing structures that can be provided to the engineering firms, Van Cort said.

The city has also put out a request for proposals (RPF) in search of companies interested in undertaking the project. The city will then ask for a proposal from a few selected firms that sent their qualifications and choose a firm to carry out the project, Van Cort added.

“Once we have a proposal, either the mayor or council will approve it,” he said. “It’s a critical component for growth in downtown. We have a high number of trips downtown by pedestrian and bicycle, but anyone downtown needs parking.”

Archived article by Anastasia Handy