A downtown Wichita parking garage paid for by taxpayers now offers zero parking spaces to the public.
That’s one way to interpret information contained in a budget request for the garage located at 123 South Topeka. The block the garage is in is now branded as “Block 1.” It holds the Ambassador Hotel, Kansas Health Foundation, the Henry’s Building under renovation, and the Kansas Leadership Center building under construction.
The garage is being paid for with a combination of tax increment financing and capital improvement program funds. The original plan called for 282 parking stalls. The Ambassador Hotel would take 125 stalls of the 282. Slawson, for the renovation of the Henry’s building, would take up to 100 stalls. This left 57 stalls for public use, which was promoted as a huge asset to downtown Wichita and justification for building the garage with TIF and CIP funds.
Now, according to the budget, the plan is for 270 stalls in the garage, less 125 for the hotel, less 100 for Slawson, and now less 45 for the Kansas Leadership Center building. That leaves precisely zero stalls for public use.
It’s not quite that simple, as Slawson will use its spaces only during the workday, leaving them available to the public evenings and weekends. Probably the same arrangement will be made for the Kansas Leadership Center.
The city also conducted a parking demand model for the garage. According to the study made available by the city manager’s office, the peak weekday demand for spaces will be 171, leaving 99 spaces available for public use.
The same study indicates that from 135 to 147 spaces will be available in evenings and on weekends.
But there’s an agreement the city has with the Ambassador Hotel and Slawson. Section 4 is titled “Parking Arrangements.” It speaks of “guaranteed availability” of the 125 hotel spaces. It repeats the same language for the Slawson spaces.
What if the hotel and Slawson want to make sure their spaces, 225 in total, are all available for their use? Guaranteed to be available, as specified in the developer agreement? And if the Kansas Leadership Center asks for the same guaranteed availability agreement for their 45 spaces, what then?
This item is on the consent agenda, where items deemed to be non-controversial are voted on in bulk, perhaps two dozen at a time. Unless a council member asks to have this item “pulled” for discussion and a possible vote separate from the other consent items, there will be no discussion of this issue.
Finally, the availability of parking spaces for public use evenings and weekends is welcome. As the garage is very close to the Intrust Bank Arena, they will be useful.
But for long stretches of the year, they won’t be used very often.
In 2011, there were two events in the month of June at Intrust Bank Arena. There were three in July, three in August, and three in September. This year, according to the event calendar on the arena’s website, there were no events in July and August.