Downtown project calls for at least 400 parking spaces

Proposed City Block Project


Tony Herrman, January 28, 2015

In bringing to fruition a conference center and hotel development downtown, one of the most obvious questions city officials face is where to find the necessary parking.

The proposed project — a 14,000-square-foot conference center linked to the south side of the Hastings City Auditorium plus four-story hotel with a space for a restaurant and other mixed use commercial space — would be built on top of the block of Fourth Street between Hastings and Denver avenues as well as the city parking lot south of the auditorium.

"Proximity of parking is the main driver — to have close parking, not just for this facility but for downtown," said Dave Rippe, executive director of the Hastings Economic Development Corp.

A plan to create public parking includes the nearby grass-covered lot north of the Masonic Center.

The Community Redevelopment Authority has obtained the option to develop that space for parking. City officials are looking at additional parking acquisition in the future as well. Cost is another driver.

City officials have created a parking matrix that shows potential dollars per stall that factors in items such as site acquisition, demolition and paving.

"All of those costs that would be associated with bringing new parking on line," Rippe said. "We're trying to evaluate the most cost-efficient way to bring the correct amount of parking on line."

The city monitored parking use at the lot south of the auditorium throughout the past year. The hotel complex would be built on that parking lot, which contains 143 spaces.

Of those spaces, Rippe said, 10-15 stalls are used for long-term parking by downtown churches, businesses and other entities; 10-15 stalls are used for long-term parking by individuals; and 20-30 stalls are used on a daily basis by downtown employees and customers. That means about 80 stalls go unused most days.

"Obviously when you have events at your auditorium, those stalls are taken," Rippe said. "That's one reason the CRA took the steps they did (Monday) to enter into an agreement for the land north of the Masonic Temple, so that we have a place that we can accommodate long-term parking as well as event parking for the auditorium and conference center."

To accommodate added traffic for the conference center and hotel complex, downtown Hastings would need at least 250 parking spaces in addition to the 143 lost from the city lot.

"Within that there are a number of other avenues by which we have to solve parking because at best-case scenario we're looking at adding 250 daily users on to this site," Rippe said.

"Right now, our current parking replacement plans are really looking at adding north of 400 stalls. How exactly we do that and what mix that is will be determined by how certain negotiations going forward will resolve themselves."

He said a parking lot underneath the hotel site is potentially part of the equation, "as well as a few other options we're currently evaluating."

By closing a block of Fourth Street, downtown traffic flow would be affected by the project, as well.

So far, there have been no official discussions about turning any of the downtown streets that are currently one-way streets into two-way streets.

"We realize there will be an impact on downtown traffic patterns," Rippe said.

Randy Chick, director of the Community Redevelopment Authority and Business Improvement District, said the city has looked at downtown traffic counts in the past.

At the busiest intersections within downtown — along Second Street — there are about 5,500 vehicles each day. That number drops to about 3,000 vehicles per day at downtown intersections farther away from Second Street.

By contrast, Hastings' busiest intersection, Second Street and Burlington Avenue, sees about 23,000 vehicles each day.

"We don't have a high impact traffic deal and people will generally figure out 'I'm going to need to slip over to Fifth Street if I want to go all the way through. Or I need to go to Second Street,' " Chick said. "In regard to people trying to get to events and activities there, the same type of thing is going to have to occur. They're just going to have to figure out, like they do anywhere else on our one-way system now. If they want to go to Murphy's Wagon Wheel it's hard to get there from Second and Burlington. You have to go about five blocks to get around. We think people will figure that out pretty quickly."