LACONIA — The City Council will address the future of the downtown parking garage when it meets on Monday, Dec.14, beginning at 7 p.m.
In September, the parking garage was closed when an inspection found that the structural steel supporting the ramps were weakened by corrosion from exposure to water and salt. Emergency repairs were made to open the garage to the second level, but the third level has remained closed.
Dubois & King, Inc. completed an assessment of the condition of the parking garage last month and estimates the cost of repairs required to ensure long-term use of the facility at $1.2 million. Alternatively, emergency repairs similar to those undertaken in October could be made to reopen the third deck at a cost $120,000, but the ramps would require inspection and re-evaluation every six months.
The issue has taken on a measure of complexity and urgency because Genesis Behavioral Health has an option, which expires at the end of this year, to purchase the privately owned portion of the facility. Maggie Pritchard, executive director of Genesis, said yesterday that should the council fail to ensure the long-term integrity of the structure in a timely manner, the transaction could be jeopardized.
Ownership of the garage is shared between the city and Downtown Crossing, LLC, whose principle is Daniel Disangro of Rosindale, Massachusetts. The publicly owned portion of the garage includes the ramps and north end of the second and third levels, including the northernmost stairwell. Downtown Crossing LLC owns the ground floor of the garage, except for the ramps, and the south end of the second and third levels, including the southernmost stairwell. In other words, the city is responsible for maintaining most of the garage, particularly the ramps to access the privately owned spaces on the second and third levels.
In addition, Downtown Crossing LLC also owns the commercial spaces on the ground floor housing the Grace Capital Church, Soda Shoppe, Tangerine Green, Wedbush Securities and, Moods of Manhattan as well as two vacant units.
Genesis is seeking to acquire the property owned by Downtown Crossing LLC and convert the portion occupied by the Grace Capital Church together with some of the smaller units to house its administrative and clinical services. The project would be financed by a bond $5.5 million bond issued by the New Hampshire Health and Educational Facilities Authority. Pritchard said that the agency will seek to raise $1.5 million through a capital campaign as well as sell its properties at 111 Church St. and 771 Main St., which have assessed values of $959,000 and $625,200 respectively, and apply the proceeds against the debt.
City Manager Scott Myers said yesterday there are other aspects to the issue for the council to consider, most obvious among them the impact of losing some 220 parking spaces — about 180 owned by the city – in the center of downtown. He said that prospect of reopening the Colonial Theatre has increased interest in downtown properties, which will increase the demand for parking.
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