The Columbus City Council is scheduled to vote Monday to pay $21.82 million for the construction phase of a new parking garage at the new Astor Park mixed-use development adjacent to the Columbus Crew’s new Lower.com Field.
The council has previously approved at least $1.4 million for the design of the city-owned garage by Columbus-based architecture firm Moody Nolan, bringing the total cost to at least $23.22 million.
The city had estimated the cost at $25 million, but that was based on a garage that could hold up to 750 cars. The final design of the five-story garage calls for 677 spaces to “serve residents, workers, and visitors to the Astor Park area,” which was formerly known as Confluence Village until the team changed the name in honor of the Astor House hotel in New York City where the 1913 founding of the United States Football Association (now known as the US Soccer Federation) occurred.
The garage will have a “perforated metal exterior” and a glass vertical shaft with dual elevators in the southeast corner, the ordinance said.
The design will include two vehicle entrances with a total of five lanes for entry and exit, located at the northeast and southwest corners of the structure, about 60 feet from the new stadium in the Arena District. There will be center ramps to access the parking areas, according to the ordinance to be voted on Monday.
Garage utilities will include electric vehicle charging stations, a first-floor “bike hub” accessed from an alley, and underground stormwater detention. The garage also will include “openings for direct connection to the adjacent residential buildings, constructed under a separate contract,” the ordinance said.
Why Columbus taxpayers are paying for a parking garage
The parking garage is part of what ultimately became dramatically escalating costs to city taxpayers under a deal struck between Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, Franklin County, the state and the Crew to keep the Major League Soccer team from leaving town for Austin, Texas in late 2018.
While Ginther and other city officials initially stated that the city’s contribution to the deal was capped at $50 million, The Dispatch reported in 2019 that city officials were operating under two separate sets of books: the public $50 million pledge that included new streets and infrastructure and three cash contributions totaling $38 million, and another unpublicized budget filled with added projects demanded by the team and unforeseen cost overruns.
Following those reports, Ginther announced at a groundbreaking ceremony for the stadium in 2019 that the city actually had contributed another $63.9 million, bringing total city taxpayer costs to just under $114 million. But Ginther said the extra was for projects not directly related to the stadium, calling it “additional funds for infrastructure for this incredible new jobs center.”
“I didn’t major in math, but the last time I checked, $113 million in infrastructure for a new jobs center leveraging $1.04 billion in private investment is a pretty good return for the taxpayers of central Ohio,” Ginther said at the event.
There were also, however, contractual obligations of the stadium deal, including the required city parking garage.
Meanwhile, the city is still in talks with the state over gaining needed control of some parking areas at the Ohio State Fairgrounds near Historic Crew Stadium for a community sports park that city officials promised would be the public-benefit component of the now, almost 3-year-old stadium deal.
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