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Erik Burgess, Published February 28 2014

Fargo parking board OKs initial step for new downtown ramp

FARGO – The city’s parking board moved forward Friday with plans for a new downtown parking ramp.

The Parking Commission asked city planning staff to draft a request for proposal to find an architect, who would then analyze where a new ramp could go downtown and how much it would cost.

Some city officials are pressing for a new downtown ramp because a new City Hall and the Second Street floodwall will soon eliminate hundreds of public parking spots from the city’s largest parking lot near the Civic Center.

Planning Director Jim Gilmour said the city owns land on NP Avenue, just east of Renaissance Hall, and a ramp could go there, even if the demand for parking is about two blocks north.

A new ramp on NP Avenue could bring in businesses, he said.

But Parking Commission member Margie Bailly urged caution with building a new ramp too quickly. She said the city expected more development on Main Avenue when it built the Island Park ramp in the early 2000s, but that didn’t come to fruition.

“Because it was expedient, it was easier, we did it,” she said. “And I just want to make sure that we don’t do that again.”

At the urging of City Commissioner Mike Williams, the request for proposal will ask for architects with experience in mixed-use facilities – parking below, with residential or commercial space above.

“We’re not just looking at a bare-bones ramp,” he said.

The draft proposal should be in front of the Parking Commission for approval by the end of April, Gilmour said. It would then go to the City Commission for final approval.

The Parking Commission also approved further study on eliminating hourly parking from some of the city’s downtown lots and ramps. Gilmour proposed the idea, saying the city could save about $22,500 annually per lot if parking attendants are eliminated.

Gilmour suggested removing attendants and hourly parking from the Ground Transportation Center ramp, the Second Avenue lot south of the Black Building and the NP Avenue lot.

Hourly parking is a hot commodity at the NP Avenue lot, but Gilmour said the city should consider the switch to automated “pay and display” parking at that lot. he said he would make an official recommendation to the parking board next month.

Planner Joe Nigg also updated the board on the possible conversion of 90-minute on-street parking east of Fifth Street North to four-hour restrictions.

Nigg said members of the Downtown Parking Task Force likes the idea, but before any changes are made they want to see a parking framework plan developed for the entire downtown.

The task force will meet this month to discuss that plan. A refined concept of switching to four-hour zones east of Fifth Street should be back to the Parking Commission by the end of March, Nigg said.

Overall, the framework plan will focus on simplifying on-street parking by using 90-minute and four-hour restrictions, Nigg said.

“Maybe a few pockets of two hours in certain areas,” he said.

Bailly urged the commission to roll out any changes with an “effective marketing plan.”

“I really think it’s important that we stop looking like we’re willy-nilly, just deciding to change this because we don’t have anything else to do, quite frankly,” she said, “and that typically is what it ends up looking like.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518