Archive for Saturday, June 5, 1999

RIVERFRONT REQUESTS FREE PUBLIC PARKING DOWNTOWN

June 5, 1999

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Owners of the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza are willing to swap maintenance responsibilities for free parking at the city garage next door.

Owners of the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza want to make the downtown mall more attractive by securing free parking in the city garage next door.

And they're willing to pay for it.

Tuesday night, Lawrence city commissioners will consider a request from Riverfront LLC, the mall's ownership group, to assume day-to-day maintenance responsibilities for the 510-space parking garage at Sixth and New Hampshire streets.

In exchange for maintaining the garage -- at a price of about $50,000 a year -- Riverfront wants the city to stop charging a 50-cent toll for parking in the 10-year-old garage. It's a move designed to boost the mall's appeal to potential office and retail tenants.

Dan Simons, a Riverfront partner, said the 150,000-square-foot mall had about 60,000 square feet available for lease to office and retail tenants, many of whom view paid parking as a deal breaker.

"I think it's critical," said Simons, who also is director of new ventures for The World Co., which owns the Journal-World. "The new tenants we're looking at -- whether they're office or retail -- all have identified the paid parking as a factor, and a negative factor, in their decision."

Even with the 50-cent fees, Simons said, the parking garage is barely breaking even for the city financially, and is likely to continue its downward trend if the tolls aren't lifted.

Under the proposed deal -- which would have Riverfront handle painting, sweeping, cleaning, striping, lighting, landscaping, snow removal and other responsibilities -- the parking would be free for all users, not just mall shoppers or employees. The city also would retain its own 30 or so spaces on the lower level.

"It's not just for us," Simons said. "It would be open parking."

The mall's resurgence as a retail and office complex also would infuse positive foot traffic, employees, shoppers and sales-tax dollars into the downtown area, Simons said.

"We want it to be an integral part of downtown," he said.

But City Manager Mike Wildgen said the revenue generated by the garage -- about $111,600 last year -- is necessary for maintaining the city's overall parking system downtown.

He suggests working out a "clear" agreement for Riverfront's maintenance responsibilities. He said the group also should pay the city $50,000 a year and provide at least 4,800 square feet of space on the mall's top floor for city use, free of charge.

-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is mfagan@ljworld.com.

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