The city has condemned the Gables building parking garage due to safety concerns, aggravating the threat of a downtown parking squeeze.
The closure occurred earlier this month, after a complaint led to a codes department inspection that revealed a host of problems, according to department Director Rebecca Brown.
A planned parking study is “even more important” now, said Sherri McGregor, chairwoman of the Altoona Parking Authority.
Numerous cracks in the concrete beams that support the deck panels of the Gables garage have caused further deterioration of the beams, and there is significant spalling of concrete from the panels and lots of exposed steel rebar, said Brown, citing the inspector’s report.
The condemnation early this month has led to the transfer of 48 vehicles that had been using the Gables garage to the city’s Transportation Center garage nearby — with a temporary reservation of 12 additional spaces, according to Parking Authority office manager Vickie Chilcote.
Those remaining 12 spaces — which would become open to the general public for monthly rentals if the former Gables occupants aren’t interested — represent the final 12 available for monthly rent in the Transportation Center garage, according to Chilcote.
There are also 14 spaces available in the surface lot behind Altoona Cardiology Associates and a few across 10th Avenue expressway in the vicinity of 11th Street, according to Chilcote.
In addition, there are three-hour visitor spaces available behind the new Curry building and two-hour spaces on the avenues, McGregor said.
The city has ordered Gables owner DSD Investors LLC of Upper Darby to hire a structural engineer to analyze the Gables garage and provide a report to the city with a tabulation of needed repairs, Brown said.
“The goal here is to just get that report and go from there,” Brown said.
The firm, however, has been having trouble finding a structural engineer to perform that task and has asked for a time extension, according to the firm’s principal, Brown said.
Brown doesn’t know whether the firm intends to repair the garage or how much it might cost, she said.
The recent city inspection showed that workers had previously patched holes in the Gables garage, attached heavy netting on the first-floor ceiling, installed wooden cribbing under the second-floor deck and applied shotcrete in places, Brown said.
As far as she knows, the condemnation of the garage won’t affect use of the rest of the Gables building, Brown said.
The garage has five floors, including a roof.
The lowest floor is accessible from an alley running between 11th and 12th avenues, while the next floor up is accessible from the 1100 block of 13th Street and the remaining floors are accessible from the 1300 block of 12th Avenue.
The city has fastened yellow caution tape across all the entrances.
“As we see how this plays out, we’ll know more,” McGregor said.
The ongoing revitalization of downtown has created the pressure for more parking spaces, although the coming summer break for Penn State Altooona should relieve some of that pressure.
The RFP for the parking study calls for an examination of the area from Seventh to 18th streets and from 10th to 14th avenues.
The study budget is $40,000.
The study consultant would need to finish within six months.
That study “is coming at a great time,” McGregor said.
The Transportation Center garage has 230 spaces.
The Gables garage has about 100 spaces, officials said they heard.
The DSD principal spoke briefly with a reporter Monday, suggested that the issue could be discussed later but didn’t call back after that.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.