Mayor Mike Rundle will appoint a task force to examine a proposal to build a 750-spot parking garage to serve the northern areas of downtown.
But city commissioners seemed skeptical Tuesday of The World Company's offer to donate land in the 600 block of New Hampshire and lease half the spots in exchange for city financing of the $9.79 million project.
"Right at the outset, my reaction is I don't see the city undertaking this kind of financial commitment at this time," said City Commissioner David Dunfield.
Ralph Gage, general manager of The World Company, said he would like to see resolution of the matter within 30 to 60 days.
"You're not going to hurt our feelings by saying no, but we need an answer," he told commissioners. "Because once we start something on this tract, the possibility of this garage is closed forever."
The World Company owns the Journal-World.
The garage would be on property currently used for World Company parking, a metered city parking lot, and it would take in vacant property east of buildings that formerly housed Reuter Organ Co. The new garage would have entrances from New Hampshire and Rhode Island streets and connect to the Riverfront Plaza parking garage.
Gage said the garage could help meet parking demand identified in a 1992 city study that showed the northern area of downtown had a deficit of 440 parking spaces.
The proposal calls for the city to fund the estimated $9.79 million in construction costs for the project. The company would donate nearly 33,000 square feet of property valued at more than $650,000. The World Company also would commit to lease 377 parking spaces in the garage and pay the city market rates for the spaces, which currently amounts to slightly more than $90,000 a year. The garage would be fully owned by the city.
Under that scenario, the project would require the equivalent of a 1 to 1.3 mill levy increase in the city's budget to issue bonds to fund the garage over a 20-year period.
Late last year the city completed an approximately $7 million, 500-space parking garage in the 900 block of New Hampshire Street as part of the Downtown 2000 project.
That's part of why Pat Kehde, owner of The Raven Bookstore, 8 E. Seventh St., opposed the idea.
"We've got a parking lot that the city just built and it's sitting nearly empty," she said. "What does that tell you about what people think about parking garages?"
Dunfield corrected Kedhe and said the parking garage was seeing increased use.
Kehde also disputed the disparity between the city and The World Company's investment in the project.
"I don't see anybody else stepping up to the plate to donate nearly an acre of land to solve this problem," Gage said.
Kedhe's concern was shared by Rundle, Dunfield and Commissioner Jim Henry.
"I would like to know if we could find some option between the two ends of the spectrum," Rundle said.
"I haven't come here to foreclose anything, but we're not interested in being in the parking garage business," Gage said.
Rundle said he would propose the task force membership next week.