Council considers $9.7 million makeover for old Macy's parking garage

The city of Wichita has shifted gears and is now planning a total renovation of the old Macy’s parking garage. (March 23, 2014)
The city of Wichita has shifted gears and is now planning a total renovation of the old Macy’s parking garage. (March 23, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

The crumbling old Macy’s parking garage at 215 S. Market will get a $9.7 million facelift if the Wichita City Council agrees Tuesday.

The council approved a partial 240-spot renovation at $6.9 million last month. But city officials now plan the complete repair of the 550-spot parking facility, City Manager Robert Layton said.

The change will cost an additional $2.8 million. It will use capital improvement funding offset by the delay of street projects downtown, Layton said.

The reason: A partial renovation, followed by the restart of the project to complete it, would cost the city at least an extra $500,000, he said. It also would slow the marketing of several development projects downtown, including the city’s efforts to find a new tenant for the nearby Finney State Office Building after the departures of state agencies.

“We were worried about the uptick in cost, the money cost, if we approached this project in phases,” Layton said. “And once we got the 240 spots open, if we restarted, the contractors would be required to work around monthly parkers, things like that. We would definitely pay a premium that’s hard to determine right now, but contractors who mobilize a second time don’t come cheaply.”

Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner was one of several council members who voiced concern about the phased approach approved in February.

“It’s all about the wisest use of our money possible,” Meitzner said. “How much extra was it going to cost us to do this thing in phases?”

“After the council approved the 240 spaces option, I heard from some council members who said, ‘We want to get it open, but is there any way we can get the entire garage completed?’” Layton said.

The answer was found in delaying improvements planned on Commerce and St. Francis streets south of Douglas until 2016. Taking $2.8 million from those projects won’t stop them. Plans to add surface parking along Commerce will proceed at a cost of around $500,000, Layton said.

“We think we can begin the first phase of the public parking work on Commerce and do it justice in the CIP, while shifting the rest to the garage,” he said.

Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., praised the move, calling it a potential catalyst for development in the area.

“It can unlock tens of millions of dollars in the area,” he said. “There are a number of projects that could come from that garage being completed, from vacant building to partially occupied.”

The city wants two other sites nearby to be developed, Fluhr said: the old Allis Hotel site at Broadway and William and a long-vacant excavation on the south side of Douglas, known at City Hall as “The Big Hole.”

The city took ownership of the garage in November, after closing the nine-story building – built in 1966 – in May 2012 because of safety concerns.

Main and Market LLC, a Chicago-based property investment company, owned the garage, while the city owned the land beneath it. The garage owner stopped making lease and tax payments on the structure

The city sued to foreclose on the garage in January 2013. In September, it won a judgment against Main and Market for $239,000 for back lease payments and taxes, and $4.85 million for devaluing the property.

“There’s certainly some residential projects under consideration if we can get some additional surface parking down there,” Layton said.

“We believe this is the right business decision, and that was the concern of the council members. If we could avoid an extra half-million, that was their preference.”

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