LACONIA — As the plans for rehabilitating the downtown parking garage get down to hard facts, city officials and consultants are stressing that the ultimate cost of the project will depend on inflation and the extent of supply chain disruption.
The rough estimate for correcting the structural defects as well as improving the lighting, accessibility and appearance of the 47-year-old building has been put at $6.6 million.
But Public Works Director Wes Anderson stressed that his office will be continually monitoring the growing cost of building materials as well as their availability in the coming months in order to come up with a better estimate of the project’s costs.
“The situation is very fluid,” Anderson told a public meeting Wednesday when plans for the project were discussed in detail.
About 12 people turned out to the meeting held at the Belknap Mill, including Mayor Andrew Hosmer, City Manager Scott Myers, and City Councilors Henry Lipman, and Bob Hamel, who chairs the council’s Lands and Buildings Committee.
The garage is largely unused in part due to structural problems which have necessitated closing off more than half its 256 spaces and also because the dark interior and other factors have made many people apprehensive about going inside, especially after dark.
“The garage is dirty and dingy and no one wants to be there,” Bob Durfee, of the Dubois & King planning and engineering firm, said. “Some people feel unsafe in there.”
The plans presented Wednesday involve both major structural repairs, improved pedestrian and vehicular access, and enhancements to the interior.
Durfee said the most serious deterioration has been to the decking under the ramps between the different levels. He said over the years these areas have had a lot of damage due to salty slush falling from vehicles during the winter, which has caused some of the metal framework and concrete decking to corrode. He said the structural steel on the second and third levels of the garage is in good condition, however.
Durfee said the rehabilitation plan calls for:
— Repairing the structural steel where necessary.
— Removing and replacing decking and walls of ramps, landings and transition areas where necessary.
— Removing and replacing deteriorated decking.
— Waterproofing and replacing the second level deck and resealing the third level deck.
— Installing a new glassed-in stair tower with elevator on the north side of the structure.
— Repairing the existing south stairwell.
— Installing new doors and windows at the stairwells.
— Cleaning, painting, and installing brighter or more energy-efficient lighting throughout.
The design aspects of the plan were outlined by architect Peter Stewart.
Interest in making major repairs and improvements to the facility has grown in recent months because of increasing business activity in the downtown area, and the recent opening of the restored Colonial Theatre.
Wednesday’s public meeting was the first of three such sessions. Other meetings are tentatively planned for February and April.
Actual construction will not begin until the City Council approves the necessary funding. Assuming the council gives the go-ahead, work could begin sometime next fall or in the spring of 2023. The project is expected to last one year.