LACONIA — With costs running high and time running short, the future of the downtown parking garage is hamstrung by the complex ownership and prospective sale of a portion of the facility.
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 and repairing the ramps to ensure access to the privately owned parking space. But,, there is no provision in the agreement between the owners that authorizes either one to compel the other to undertake repairs to its portion of the garage.
Downtown Crossing LLC, which owns the private portion of the facility, has entered a purchase and sales agreement to sell its interest, consisting of 36 spaces in the garage and seven commercial spaces beneath it, to Genesis Behavioral Health. The agency would house its administrative and clinical services in the space currently occupied by the Grace Capital Church and lease the remaining commercial spaces.
Dubois & King, Inc. has estimated the cost of structural repairs to the section of the garage owned by the city at $1.8 million, which includes a contingency at 10 percent but not design and engineering costs at 5 percent. The estimated cost of repairing the privately owned portion of the facility is $290,000, which also includes a contingency at 10 percent while excluding 5 percent for design and engineering.
Maggie Pritchard, executive director of Genesis, has advised city officials that her agency would not acquire the property if the city failed to repair the garage and ensure its long-term use.Likewise, city officials have indicated an unwillingness to undertake the repairs without the cooperation of the private owner.
So far, Daniel Disangro of Rosindale, Massachusetts, the principal of Downtown Crossing , LLC has been unwilling either to bear the cost of repairing its portion of the garage or discount the selling price to offset the cost of repairs to Genesis. He has agreed to extend the purchase and sales agreement until Feb. 29.
When the Land and Buildings Committee of the City Council met earlier this week, City Manager Scott Myers explained that the funding for a sale to Genesis is "time sensitive."
Genesis intends to finance its acquisition and conversion with a bond $5.5 million bond issued by the New Hampshire Health and Educational Facilities Authority. Pritchard said the agency will also seek to raise $1.5 million through a capital campaign. The funds must be expended by May 2017. Consequently, for Genesis to complete the renovation and conversion on time, work would have to begin by October.
To add to the urgency, work cannot begin on the privately owned section of the garage before some of the necessary structural repairs on the city-owned portion are complete. Myers said that this would require the city to begin the process of designing the project, preparing the bids and awarding the contract in March with an eye to starting work in July.
Myers suggested convening a meeting of "stakeholders in short order." At the same time, the Land and Buildings Committee, which is chaired by Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) and includes councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and Armand Bolduc (Ward 6), scheduled one meeting on Thursday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m., and another at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22, before the next regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council.
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