City offers to provide parking Farmers Supply site considered for high-rise

'We're taking a risk'

Underground garage among possibilities for downtown property

September 25, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Developers interested in the Farmers Supply Co. property in downtown Westminster can count on city officials to provide parking, even if that means building Carroll County's first underground parking garage.

Westminster's parking offer is based on a consensus by the Westminster Town Center Corp., a six-member corporation similar to a development authority, that the one-acre site at Liberty and Green streets needs intensive development, such as a high-rise office building, said Thomas B. Beyard, the city's planning and public works director.

"The city would become involved in what we hope will be a partnership" to develop the site, identified as one of four properties instrumental in downtown Westminster's future, Beyard said.

Under such a partnership, the private sector would develop the site, the city would provide parking, and the corporation would renovate a historic stone building.

The city will seek proposals for the site from prospective developers from Tuesday through Dec. 1. Westminster is marketing the tract after securing a purchase option from the approximately 80 stockholders of the former farm equipment sales business this month.

The property, which has been on the market since 1989, most recently was priced at $595,000.

Westminster won't require developers bidding on the property to retain the stone building, but if the project receives federal or state aid, Beyard said, those government agencies are likely to require preservation of the building.

James H. Dulany IV, a Westminster real estate appraiser and president of the Greater Westminster Development Corp., praised the city's initiative in marketing the property and offering parking.

"Certainly, if there is a parking arrangement that would increase the parkability, to coin a word, of the site, I can only think it would be a positive feature," Dulany said.

A parking garage would be expensive, but city officials hope to get federal community development block grants and tap other state sources for financing.

Beyard doesn't have a construction cost estimate for a parking garage. He said the cost would vary by the size needed and by whether the developer wanted help with parking.

In the Baltimore area, a parking space on a surface lot costs $750 to $1,000 to build, while a garage parking space ranges from $7,500 to $10,000, said Warren Hamilton, vice president of J. Vinton Schafer & Sons Inc., a Baltimore contractor with experience in parking lots and garages.

Hamilton said an underground parking garage is usually more expensive than an above-ground garage because the contractor might run into rock or water and has to waterproof, ventilate and provide fire protection underground.

The city would like to add more spaces to the garage than the property's developer needs, Beyard said, to meet business district needs.

A parking garage at the Farmers Supply Co. would not replace Westminster's long-range plans to build a parking deck on the Longwell Avenue or Sherwood parking lots.

Westminster has posted a $100 refundable deposit to secure its option on the property. If the city doesn't succeed in marketing the property before the option expires in June 1997, it can walk away without penalty.

"We're taking a risk, but I don't think it's a monetary risk. We may fail, but you can avoid failing by never trying," said Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan.

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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