During its Jan. 8 meeting at City Hall, Wilmington City Council voted 6-1 to allocate $670,000 in supplemental appropriation to repair the Water Street parking deck.
Andrew Consulting Engineers conducted a presentation on the current state of the parking deck during council’s Aug. 6, 2012 meeting. The firm recommended that the city make repairs or demolish the upper deck.
On Tuesday, Councilwoman Laura Padgett was the only council member in favor of demolishing the upper deck.
“The property is an eyesore,” Padgett said. “It was beautiful in the 1950s, but now it yells that we’re a city that will not move past the 1950s.”
Councilman Charlie Rivenbark said he would like more time to make a decision, and voted against waiving a second reading. The decision will be voted on again at the council’s next meeting.
“At some point, it’s going to go,” Rivenbark said. “But I don’t think that’s going to be tonight.”
Padgett used data indicating the average occupancy of the parking deck is 49 percent to support her argument for demolishing the upper deck. The parking deck currently contains 360 spaces, 180 on each level.
Councilman Kevin O’Grady was quick to point out that 49 percent was an average, and that on some days the parking deck was filled to capacity. On those days, O’Grady said, 180 people would have to find parking elsewhere, in lots that do not produce any revenue for the city.
O’Grady said, “Will businesses stay downtown if they don’t have parking? Will people continue to come downtown if they have to walk farther?”
Current estimates by city staff suggest that revenue gained from keeping the parking deck open will pay back the cost of repairs in two years.
Councilwoman Margaret Haynes said she came to the meeting prepared to vote in favor of demolishing the parking deck’s upper level, but changed her mind after learning about the revenue it would generate.
All of the council members agreed that the parking deck eventually needs to go; however, they disagreed on the course of action to be taken until then.
O’Grady said he believed in keeping the parking deck open while looking for someone to invest in the property, but was pessimistic about finding an investor quickly.
“No projects of the kind of scale we would like to see here are really being proposed right now,” O’Grady said. “The private sector is not ready. They haven’t shown … the willingness to invest their money.”