For once, parking was not a problem.
City Hall leaders and downtown merchants on Tuesday largely agreed to a compromise plan that would convert some two-hour free parking into 10-hour metered parking to accommodate an office project by Treanor Architects in the 1000 block of Vermont Street.
“I feel a lot better about this now than I did a week ago,” said Rex Porter, owner of Rex’s Stadium Barber Shop, who was among a group of merchants in the southern end of downtown who previously had expressed concerns the project was going to remove valuable parking for shoppers.
Officials with Lawrence-based Treanor Architects had asked for changes to the city-owned parking lot in the 1000 block of Vermont Street to accommodate a project to convert the former Strong’s Office Supply building, 1040 Vt., into new headquarters for the architecture firm.
The company’s leaders had asked the city to open the parking lot, which currently is a two-hour free lot, up to 10-hour parking. But several merchants balked at the suggestion. At a Tuesday afternoon forum, City Commissioner Bob Schumm proposed that only half of the approximately 60-space lot be opened up to 10-hour parking, while the rest would remain for two-hour free parking. Schumm also is proposing that five two-hour meters along North Park street, which is about a block from the project, be converted to 10-hour meters.
Several representatives of businesses in the area, including a representative from adjacent D&D Tire, said the plan sounded promising.
Bill Fleming, an attorney for Treanor Architects, said the compromise also sounded workable. He said the company hopes to begin construction on the project, which will include adding a second floor to the former Strong’s building, by June. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The full City Commission will consider the parking proposal at its meeting next week. As part of the proposal commissioners also will consider a request from Treanor that the company be allowed to purchase 10-hour long-term parking permits at their current rate for the next 10 years. That part of the proposal was not discussed at the forum, but Schumm and City Commissioner Hugh Carter previously have expressed concerns with that part of the plan.