As the city continuously looks for ways to improve the downtown experience in Delaware, addressing parking issues remains at the forefront of those efforts. During Monday’s meeting of the Delaware City Council, council members listened to a presentation on the ongoing saga of a potential parking garage being constructed in the downtown core.

The presentation was given by national parking consultant firm DESMAN, which the city retained last year to identify the cost and feasibility of a downtown parking facility. Headquartered in New York, DESMAN designs parking structures and repairs existing structures in addition to its work as a consultant for structures under consideration.

“What we were trying to do with this study is to provide an objective, impartial, third-party analysis of the feasibility of taking a look at our existing parking facilities as well as other areas where parking garages might be constructed,” City Manager Tom Homan said prior to the presentation. “I should say at the outset that this was conceptual. We are not in the process of contacting property owners. We simply evaluated possible locations within the downtown. We are quite a ways from being able to say we are going to start talking with property owners about different locations.”

Homan added, “This study really looks at parking structures, what they cost, where they could go, what the pros and cons are, and provides a roadmap for City Council as it considers this matter, which is of the utmost importance.”

DESMAN’s study consisted of three phases beginning with a preliminary development and evaluation of garage design concepts. From there, the firm refined those preferred concepts in the second phase before formulating a financial feasibility analysis of the preferred projects in the final phase.

With the aid of a 2017 downtown Delaware parking study conducted by MKSK, DESMAN senior associate Greg Shumate broke down the total number of spaces — and types of spaces — available in the downtown area. According to the MKSK study, there are currently a total of 3,304 downtown parking spaces. Of those spaces, 1,531 are public spaces and 1,773 are private. The public spaces are split nearly evenly between surface lots (735) and on-street parking (796).

At the start of DESMAN’s study, city staff had already identified seven areas in which it wanted the firm to look closely as potential options for a parking structure. DESMAN then analyzed each area for a recommended garage capacity assuming the facility is three levels, the maximum capacity if the facility were to be constructed with five levels, and the approximate number of net spaces gained.

In doing so, three particular areas came into focus as preferred locations deserving of a “closer look,” according to Shumate. Those options include the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Union Street (Site 1), Spring Street (Site 7), and the northeast corner of Winter and Union streets (Site 4).

According to the study, Site 1 could carry a recommended three-level capacity of 387 parking spaces and a maximum of 691 spaces for a five-level structure. Site 7 includes a recommended 420 spaces, and a total of 295 spaces were recommended for Site 4.

In discussing the three preferred locations, Shumate said Site 1 at Central Avenue and Union Street holds “the greatest promise,” although he noted the location would include a set of challenges such as the acquisition of privately-owned lots, the relocation of some existing businesses, and building demolition. “However, the positioning of this structure and the design, it creates a great opportunity for a well-designed, very efficiently laid out parking structure,” he added.

Benefits of the Site 1 location would include the possibility of access points from all four streets surrounding the location. While a three-level structure would create 387 parking spaces, Shumate said a structure on that location could easily accommodate an additional two levels for a total of nearly 700 spaces. Of the three preferred locations, Site 1 would also yield the greatest net gain in parking spaces at 353 spaces given the lack of existing spaces in the area.

“From a parking standpoint, it is exactly where the demand for parking is, and where everyone wants parking to be. In our view, it would best serve the growth of the core area of downtown for many years to come if you chose that site,” Shumate said of Site 1.

The estimated cost of construction for Site 1 would be $11,420,904, according to the study. Site 7, which carries the highest total number of spaces but a lesser net gain than Site 1, projects to be the most expensive of the three suggestions at a price of $12,323,520. Site 4, with both the smallest number of total spaces added and net spaces gained, is projected to cost $7,504,552.

As for the preliminary financial performance for each proposal, DESMAN analyzed projections for total gross annual parking revenue, total annual parking garage expenses, and contributions to a repair and replacement reserve fund for the third year of the structure’s operation in order to calculate an annual net revenue available for debt service. Shumate said the net revenue for Site 1 is projected to be approximately $89,967 and $198,965 for Site 7.

Site 4 would still operate at a projected deficit of $33,309 in year three, which Shumate attributed to the lack of net spaces gained given the existing parking on the site.

Following the presentation, Homan called the DESMAN report “very helpful” and “timely” given the city’s ongoing discussions regarding parking. “Now that we have some baseline information, I think it really will be helpful,” Homan said.

Kyle Kridler, the assistant city manager, added, “Obviously, it’s a big investment. Having worked with DESMAN, which has worked with larger cities like Columbus and Cleveland as well as smaller towns like ours, I think it would be a very valuable component if there’s a way to figure out the financing of it. Also, I think with some of the businesses we’ve spoken with about that common complaint or challenge of the availability of parking downtown, I think it would be an economic development tool we could lean to also help to spur on that second and third-floor office development within the downtown.”

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.