The October 18 Summit Common Council meeting included a presentation by Level G Associates on their observations of Summit’s parking management and resources.  The presentation was based on a draft of the assessment report prepared by Level G for their client the City administration and elected officials of Summit.  The draft report is not available on the City website or in the October 18th Common Council Packet of agenda and supporting documents. 

The presentation of a draft report during a public meeting can either be a demonstration of project progress-started Jan 2016 or opportunity to float ideas for public reaction.  The fact that the draft report is not available for closer review suggests that perhaps a suppressed public reaction is the intended target.

Observers of previous parking analysis will find similar themes.  Despite the published objectives to include the assessment of parking operations, the report is vague and solicitous on that point stating for example their client’s operations are deemed to be “highly functional”. Of course, the weight of the report is in a finding of parking shortage and the solution is a parking structure.  There are a few accessory observations and suggestions most notably that parking structures need annual maintenance budgets or the City’s rate payers or parking customers will face expensive and unexpected repairs of the parking structures or a greatly reduced facility service life.  Another accessory suggestion, as reported, was that the Uber car service may reduce demand of only 100 spaces over a period of many years.  That suggestion serves only to diminish the value of alternatives to a new parking structure. 

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The recommended parking supply increase is either 250 for short term thinking or 500 if you believe the future development vision that is yet undefined.  Furthermore, the first choice site of the new parking structure is located behind the soon to open West Elm store location (formerly the downtown movie theater) across from One Deforest and near 25 Deforest in an area including the 3 Deforest Shopper’s lot.  

The planning economics to build a parking deck facility has a cost of over $25,000 per space (grade level and above).  Keep in mind you are replacing a surface parking facility so there is only a net gain which is fewer spaces than the proposed outcomes.  The specific calculations on how this investment becomes a self-liquidating expense is far from being resolved.  However, Level G did foreshadow the increased revenue needed in the overall parking system to accommodate changes in use patterns and it would be reasonable to expect that current system-wide parking rates are inadequate to fund any new parking structure development.  Basically, revenue system-wide has to double.  

 Then there is the public’s primary concern of development size which was omitted in the presentation. Summit has two existing parking structures the Tier Garage (431) and the Broad Street Deck (491).  The visual context of a new parking structure is based on a calculation of about 350 square feet for each parking space which includes lanes for circulation.  A 500 space structure is about 175,000 SF and the 250 space structure is about 87,500 SF.  The larger parking structure is on a scale of the 25 Deforest office building plus 50,000 SF with a likely elevation of 60 feet plus.  There are no uncombined commercial structures of that size in downtown Summit. The public should consider whether Summit’s largest downtown structure should be a parking deck.

It is my opinion that the City’s approach to managing the public parking inventory combined with private resources is far from an ideal situation.  Better parking management options should be explored thoroughly before investing in a new expensive parking deck. 

Robert Steelman