City officials hope to have free parking available in the city's downtown parking garage by Aug. 1.
Free parking is coming to the city's downtown parking garage, part of a deal intended to boost retail hopes for an outlet mall under new ownership.
During their meeting Wednesday, Lawrence city commissioners agreed to eliminate the 50-cent parking fees currently charged for the 510-space garage at Sixth and New Hampshire streets, as requested by Riverfront L.L.C.
The change is expected to become effective Aug. 1, or possibly earlier if city officials can get the details worked out.
"I think it's a win-win for everyone," said Bill Newsome, a partner in Riverfront L.L.C., which owns the adjacent Lawrence Riverfront Plaza.
Newsome and his partners have pushed for the elimination of parking fees, which they consider to be barrier to landing new tenants for the three-level, 150,000-square-foot building along the southern bank of the Kansas River.
Under terms of the agreement approved in concept Wednesday:
- Top-level parking will be free for 2-hour use, similar to many short-term public lots in the downtown area.
- Lower-level parking will be paid, but not at entry. Fees will be assessed through a "pay box" system, where users will drop money into numbered slots that correspond with the parking space in use.
- Riverfront would buy up to 235 long-term parking passes from the city, at $96 each. The passes, which will cost a total of $22,560, would represent the number of spaces on the lower level. The passes then could be distributed to mall tenants or employees.
- Riverfront will charge new mall tenants a quarter-per-square-foot parking fee, with money going to the city. Riverfront has about 70,000 square feet available for retail and office use.
- Riverfront will agree to lease 4,800 square feet of office space in the mall for city use at the following rates: $20,700 in year one; $28,560 in year two; $29,520 in year three; $30,720 in year four and $31,920 in year five. City Manager Mike Wildgen said a "one-stop shop" for building inspections, fire inspections and other city services was among the top options for the space.
A final agreement will be forwarded to the commission for final approval in the coming weeks.
Commissioners told staffers to compile a report, in a year, to determine whether the parking fee changes helped infuse more retail uses into the mall as intended.
-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is email@example.com.