Tacoma City Council OKs Center for Urban Waters parking lot

The cutting-edge, $22 million, eco-friendly Center for Urban Waters on the east side of Thea Foss Waterway — with its much-touted rain garden, solar shades, and native plants — will soon offer another feature: a parking lot for more than four-dozen vehicles.

On Tuesday, Tacoma City Council approved a resolution that turns a vacant, city-owned piece of land across the street from the facility into a 50-stall paid parking lot to serve visitors. The resolution amends the city’s contract with Republic Parking Northwest to fold the lot, located at 303 East D Street, into Republic’s portfolio of city-owned parking lots it already manages. Before council took action, that portfolio included seven off-street parking structures and two surface parking lots. The city will pay Republic $13,683 annually to manage the new lot. Drivers will pay $40 (plus tax) for a monthly parking permit, or four dollars per day and/or one dollar per hour to park there on a short-term basis. City staff report the lot is expected to draw $16,080 in revenue per year.

The proposal was originally included as part of a resolution slated to appear before City Council on July 26. It was moved tentatively to the Aug. 2 meeting, and then to the Aug. 9 meeting, before it was postponed for a later date after some councilmembers raised questions over whether or not additional parking would conflict with the city’s goal of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum status for the building, as well as long-term economic development plans for the east side of Thea Foss Waterway, including a so-called Innovation Partnership Zone that would create the second phase of the Center for Urban Waters on the site of the proposed parking lot.

City Council’s environmental and public works committee discussed the issue last week.

The three-story, 51,000-square-foot Center for Urban Waters is located at 326 East D Street and currently serves the city’s environmental services department, University of Washington Tacoma researchers, and the Puget Sound Partnership, according to the city’s Web site.

According to Tacoma Public Works Director Richard E. McKinley, 32 parking stalls are available at the Center for Urban Waters: five stalls serve tenants; five stalls serve van pools; three stalls serve drivers with ADA needs; and 19 stalls serve fleet vehicles and visitors. Twenty on-street, first-come-first-served, two-hour parking stalls also serve visitors. “Since the facility opened in April 2010, there have been over 90 meetings with 25 or more people in attendance,” wrote McKinley in a Aug. 11 memo to interim City Manager Rey Arellano. “These meeting attendees are often unable to find nearby parking on a temporary basis.

“Over the last year or so of occupancy, we have encouraged both employees and building visitors to carpool and use alternative transportation as much as possible,” McKinley added. “Due to the location of the building, alternative transportation is very challenging due to the Murray Morgan Bridge construction.”

The Murray Morgan Bridge is closed to vehicles and pedestrians until December 2012 while it undergoes a $57 million rehabilitation.During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, McKinley re-iterated the points outlined in his memo.

“I know folks have been there at one time or another for an event and parking is difficult,” McKinley told councilmembers. “Our recommendation is to add [303 East D Street] to the parking situation for tenants of [the Center of Urban Waters], but not exclusively. If one of the neighboring employees wanted to lease the space, they would be able to do that also. That frees up parking for the many events that happen in the city and take care of that. This temporary situation will be removed and [it is] anticipated that any structure that would be built on that site would provide its own structure parking at that time.”

In his Aug. 11 memo, McKinley argued the new parking lot would not affect the city’s ability to achieve LEED Platinum certification for the Center for Urban Waters. “Under LEED for New Construction, the project team must define a site boundary to be used consistently for all LEED calculations,” McKinley wrote. “The 303 East D Street lot was not included in the site boundary for the project because it was not being developed (nor was it contemplated to be developed) during construction of the building. LEED Existing Building Operation and Maintenance (EBOM) does not have any requirements or points associated with the number of parking stalls. EBOM does have points associated with the number of building occupants that use alternative transportation. Environmental Services is exploring ways to operate the lot to further encourage alternative transportation by our employees. Options include providing discounted parking for carpools and for hybrid/electric vehicles.”

Still, during a meeting of city council’s environment and public works committee Aug. 24, Councilmember Jake Fey, who also chairs the committee, recalled how reducing the number of parking stalls on the Center of Urban Waters site and encouraging employees and visitors to use alternative forms of transportation was encouraged in order to achieve the goal of LEED Platinum certification for the building.”The staff sold hard the limitations on parking,” said Councilmember Fey. “It was sold to us that this was essential and [more parking] was not needed. And we talked about busing people in from the Tacoma Dome parking lot [and] having a shuttle.” Councilmember Fey also recalled how a former councilmember questioned why more parking wasn’t being considered during the facility’s planning and design. “Former Councilmember [Mike] Lonergan went to great lengths on this issue of why in the heck weren’t we providing parking there,” said Councilmember Fey. “And the answer at the time hinged on that it was important for the LEED rating. That’s why it’s coming up. It wasn’t just a passing question by a councilmember, it was repeated questions by a councilmember.”

The resolution approved Tuesday also authorizes Republic Parking Northwest to manage the city-owned, 35-stall parking lot located near South 14th Street and Pacific Avenue downtown. The city will pay Republic $22,077 annually to manage the lot. During weekday business hours, DaVita, whose downtown headquarters are adjacent to the parking lot, is expected to lease all the parking spaces during weekday business hours. After hours, all the spaces (except for three until 8 p.m.) will be turned into paid parking for the general public. Drivers will pay a five-dollar flat rate evenings and weekends after 6 p.m., and a rate of $125 (plus tax) to park there monthly. City staff report the lot is expected to draw $60,000 in revenue per year.

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Tacoma City Council scheduled to vote today on Center for Urban Waters parking lot (08/30/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2028893&more=0

Center for Urban Waters parking lot proposal spurs more discussion (08/25/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2027344&more=0

Tacoma considers additional parking for eco-friendly Center for Urban Waters (08/24/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2026434&more=0

New Web site for Center for Urban Waters (08/23/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2025868&more=0

Center for Urban Waters, Innovation Partnership Zone top Tacoma City Council study session agenda (08/15/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2021744&more=0

Sauro’s parking lot contract tentatively headed to Tacoma City Council (08/03/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2016405&more=0

Tacoma City Council to vote on parking contracts (07/19/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2009355&more=0

A garden grows atop Center for Urban Waters (07/09/10) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1802909&more=0

Move-in begins at $22M Center for Urban Waters (03/29/10) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1741767&more=0