LACONIA — The Land and Buildings Committee of the City Council will begin its consideration of how to address the condition of the downtown parking garage when it meets on Monday, Dec. 28, at 6:15 p.m., prior to the regularly scheduled meeting of the council, which begins at 7 p.m.
The ownership of the garage is unique. The ramps and north end of the second and third levels, including the northernmost stairwell, are owned by the city. The ground floor of the garage, except for the ramps, and the south end of the second and third levels, including the southernmost stairwell, along with seven commercial units on the ground level, are privately owned. The city is responsible for maintaining most of the garage, particularly the ramps to access the the second and third levels.
Genesis Behavioral Health has entered a purchase-and-sales agreement to purchase the privately owned portion of the facility, which includes some 36 of the 228 parking spaces and the commercial space on the ground floor. The agency intends to invest $5.5 million in acquiring the property and converting it to house its administrative and clinical services in the 26,000 square feet currently leased to the Grace Capital Church and two vacant units while continuing to rent units to four other businesses.
When the council discussed the future of the garage two weeks ago, Maggie Pritchard, executive director of Genesis, told the councilors that if the city did not repair the garage, Genesis would not acquire the private portion of the structure.
Dubois & King Inc. estimates the cost of repairs required to ensure long-term use of the downtown parking garage at $1.2 million. However, City Manager Scott Myers said that a section of the second level covered by fireproofing material remains to be assessed and suggested increasing the cost of repair to $1.5 million.
Myers said the repairs would extend the life of the ramps between 25 and 30 years and the decks between 30 and 40 years. In addition, he expected annual maintenance costs to average about $10,000 over the life of the facility.
Meanwhile, several downtown property and business owners urged the council to not only repair but also improve the garage by adding an exterior staircase, which would be lighted and glassed, and an elevator while taking steps to make it more welcoming, secure and attractive. Myers ventured that such improvements could raise the cost of the project to between $2 million and $3 million.