SIOUX CITY | Sioux City Council members voiced frustration as they approved a significantly different concept for a new downtown parking structure than they had anticipated when the project was originally approved.
The two-story garage at the intersection of Fifth and Virginia streets will serve guests at the new Courtyard by Marriott Hotel connected to the city-owned Convention Center, as well as downtown visitors accessing the nearby Historic Fourth Street District and Promenade Cinema 14.
The new design approved Monday includes one public entrance point on Fifth Street and a lower-level entrance for hotel guests on Virginia Street. Council members lamented how the design has been altered from an original design that included two lower-level entrances to the south and upper-level entrances off Virginia, eliminating the hassle of driving around the block to enter Fifth Street, a one-way road.
But designers present at Monday's council meeting said planning the structure as originally proposed would increase costs by about $2 million, contrary to original estimates provided by the hotel developer earlier this year.
"People aren't getting what they were expecting," Councilman Dan Moore said. "I'm not getting what I expected."
The council had viewed the original concept and estimate in June when it voted 4-1 in approval of development and parking agreements with North Liberty, Iowa-based Kinseth Hospitality for the 150-room hotel in the Convention Center parking lot. The cost estimates for the work had been performed by a firm working for Kinseth.
At the time, the city entered into a parking agreement with the hotel developers that outlined the city's responsibility to construct the 140-space parking structure and lease the lower level to Kinseth for hotel guests. The second level will be reserved for overflow parking and for public use.
Kinseth will receive a discounted rate for hourly parking at the facility equal to between 60 and 65 percent of the usual monthly rate, according to the agreement. Members of the public on the second level will pay the regular 75-cent-per-hour rate.
Parking at the time had been a major point of concern for some community members and for Mayor Bob Scott, who had cast the lone dissenting vote on the hotel project.
Scott on Monday said he believes both levels of the structure will mostly fill with hotel guests anyway, since the number of spaces is 10 fewer than the number of hotel rooms. Some Fourth Street businesses have expressed concern their customers could have trouble finding parking within reasonable walking distance after the hotel project begins. The parking lot next to the Convention Center offers free public parking except during certain events at the venue.
The mayor said that while driving around to Fifth Street to access the new ramp would be inconvenient, the city needs to keep that project -- and another $2 million of upgrades planned at the convention center -- within its original budget of about $4.1 million.
"I'm going to support (the parking structure) now because it's a project," Scott said. "Design that parking ramp however you want it, but it'd better be a $4.1 million bid when we're done."
Ramaker & Associates Inc. presented a third alternate design Monday, as well, which would have cost about $1 million more than budgeted. The design included two entrances off Virginia Street, one directly south of Fifth Street to access the upper level and a second, located further to the south down the hill, to access the lower level.
The design the council chose leaves the existing parking on the ground and adds a platform on top. Representatives with Ramaker told the council that the savings comes from the need to do less excavation and shoring work.
"Entering off Fifth is not as ideal, but it saves on the cost considerably," said Dan Smith of Ramaker.
Council members voiced their disappointment at the new design but also acknowledged they couldn't add $1 million to $2 million to the project.
"I don't know how you can spend $1 million more," said Councilman Pete Groetken.
"It's just extraordinarily frustrating," said Councilman Alex Watters.
"This is almost humorous if it wasn’t such a bad deal," Scott said.
Scott and Moore both added this might be another reason to turn Fifth Street back into a two-way street, a concept that has garnered occasional council discussion in recent years but has not come to fruition.
As the designers presented Monday, Scott voiced additional concern for trucks hauling cargo to the rear of the Convention Center. Under the schematics, they would have to back up the hill and then drive in reverse for 200 to 250 feet down a 24- to 20-foot-wide corridor between the hotel and the parking structure.
"It's a train wreck," Scott said. "So you're asking a guy with a 53-foot truck to make that back in there. You guys ever driven one of those?"
Scott said the new designs differed from previous ones that would have allowed trucks to back in from either the north or the south.
"On an icy day he’s going to try to back up a hill, which is great," he quipped.
Moore said after the meeting he wants the council to have the design examined by truck drivers to be sure it's feasible.
The new convention center hotel, parking structure and upgrades to the Sioux City Convention Center are part of Sioux City's Reinvestment District project, which will leverage nearly $14 million in state funding to add four big-ticket projects. The Convention Center upgrades and parking structure will be funded with future sales and hotel taxes from new developments in the district, in addition to local tax-increment financing.