Tyler city leaders agreed Wednesday to hire a special construction manager to help guide the creation of a proposed parking garage at Broadway Avenue and Elm Street, on land gifted by the Fair Foundation.
The meeting was the first of several to be held at Liberty Hall, 103 E. Erwin St., while the council chambers at Tyler City Hall are renovated.
The meeting started on time, but city leaders were among the motorists scrambling for a close place to park.
Officials seemed to take the location change in stride.
“We just need a parking garage or something,” Councilman Darryl Bowdre, who parked more than a block from the meeting site, teased.
Tyler's hopes of building the estimated $7 million, four-story garage structure still requires review and approval from city leaders before moving forward, but officials agreed Wednesday that Dallas-based Manhattan Construction is the best candidate to help lead those efforts.
“This company would be involved in the design before the design is complete,” City Engineer Carter Delleney said. “There is less risk to the city; it is placed on the construction manager. Manhattan, in our opinion, gives us the best value for the city.”
The city engineer said hiring the company was not the same thing as giving final approval for the project, which is not fully funded.
“There are stages where we'll have opportunities to step back” and evaluate, Delleney said.
Walker Parking Consultants/Engineers initiated a study almost two years ago that found there are 1,406 spaces to park downtown, but only 360 are classified as public.
Consultants said the multi-story structure would add 427 new parking spaces, officials said.
The council agreed to the suggested remedy and decided in January to move into the final design phase of the project, known as Fair Plaza Garage.
Preliminary design calls for access off College Avenue and an automated gate system instead of a person. Exterior design is expected to feature buildings that used to be downtown: the Blackstone Hotel, Tyler Commercial College and the old Smith County Courthouse.
Funding for the parking garage could come from half-cent sales tax revenue, public-private partnerships, special utility funds as well as oil and gas revenue, Delleney said.
Councilman Martin Heines said he was comfortable with the slow progression of the project and the city's ability to pause and reevaluate as necessary.
Tyler resident Larry Meckley, the only member of the public to speak on the issue, said the plan should be abandoned because downtown has enough parking spaces.
In a related issue, officials met in executive session to discuss the possible sale of the city-owned Fair Building, 117 S. Broadway Ave., but took no action.
Officials said earlier they hope to sell the 9,000 square-foot Fair Building, sandwiched between Erwin and Elm streets next to the Lindsey Building, and possibly use the money to help complete the parking garage.
The spending action would require approval from the city council, officials said.
The building also was a gift to the city from the Fair Foundation.