Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey wants city to help pay for 5 downtown parking garages

A huge factor stalling development downtown is the need for more stalls the parking variety.
Mayor Matthew Godfrey is proposing using some city funds to help build five parking garages that would add 1,350 stalls to the downtown mix.

"We're grateful that there are times when it's bad," Godfrey said Thursday about the lack of parking during downtown's resurgence. "It's a wonderful problem to have. For many, many years, it was not an issue.

"But we have these large sections of town we're in the process of redeveloping, and that is not feasible without parking structures. We need those to get the tenants and hence the developers to move forward with them."

The mayor's proposal, presented to the City Council at a work session this week, calls initially for $700,000 and a total of about $7.1 million of Business Depot Ogden lease revenues over a decade to help meet the total construction cost of $20.3 million. The revenues could be used for debt service on either bonds or conventional loans. The remaining funding would come from other sources, including Weber County, the federal government and property owners.

The $7.1 million would allow the projects to be economically viable, Godfrey said. Without them, the city stands to lose development to suburbs.

The mayor wants quick action, with construction beginning no later than 2011. Two mixed-use projects nearby are ready to move forward, but parking remains an issue, Godfrey said.

"We have to find a way to find parking access for customers and clientele," said Dave Hardman, president and CEO of the Ogden/Weber Chamber of Commerce. "Street parking is not nearly enough."

Hardman said one growing trend focuses on convenience, with shoppers preferring easy and quick access to stores.

"Proximity is really critical," Godfrey said. "Retailers and office tenants are not willing to walk great distances, and they know their customers won't. They don't want to park in one place and walk a couple of blocks to get to their store. So you have to have adjacency for businesses to be successful."

Both Godfrey and Hardman said the city-owned, 1,530-stall parking garage at The Junction a scaled-down-but-renovated remnant of the former Ogden City Mall already is often full. And Godfrey expects parking capacity woes there once additional developments at The Junction and nearby are completed.

The city's central business district has about 14,000 parking spaces, up from about 4,800 in 1970. But city planning manager Greg Montgomery said many public parking areas since then disappeared when the downtown declined and in many cases have been replaced by lots for private businesses, offices and government use. For example, 11 percent of the current total is at the FrontRunner station.

"We've had this shift in parking," Montgomery said. "Although we've increased the number of stalls from what we had years ago, the amount available for the public to use is limited."

No downtown can have all the parking it needs for every business, he said, noting that Ogden needs a total of 23,700 in its central business district.

"All you would have is parking" under that scenario, Montgomery said. "You've got to be strategic and locate them where they will provide the most benefit."

Godfrey is hoping the parking structures can help save some of the city's historic buildings along the east side of Washington Boulevard. Additional parking behind those buildings might attract not only tenants for the main floors but also for their second and third floors, which in some cases have been unused for decades.

"These parking structures will be tucked back behind those buildings," Godfrey said. "Hopefully, they will be invisible and useful at the same time for patrons."
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