Land Ownership Issues Complicate Decision to Repair City’s Eastside Garage


INSTITUTIONAL – Located next to the site of the future Loews Hotel is a 768-car city-owned parking garage. Referred to as the city’s Eastside parking garage, the west being the underground structure at Kleman Plaza, this garage is situated on a 1.33 acre parcel. Oddly enough, however, that 1.33 acre parcel is not entirely owned by the city.

The City of Tallahassee owns all but 0.41 acres beneath that 768-spot parking garage, of which 666 (lucky number right?!) are reserved for the general public. The balance of land beneath the Eastside garage is owned by the following entities:

  • Penny Hicks Worden & Joseph W Smith III – Parcel 2136250741265
  • Winchester Downtown LLC – Parcel 2136250741251
  • Bass Investments LLC – Parcel 2136250731250

The City leases the land for these parcels situated beneath about 33% of the footprint of the parking garage on a long-term basis through June 30, 2025, which is an issue complicating a decision to repair or replace the aged structure.

According to agenda, a structural evaluation conducted by Rosenbaum Engineering, Inc. on the site in 2017 indicated the garage is in need of substantial repairs, several of which considered critical. Rosenbaum recommends an expenditure of $1,308,500 over the next two years to address the most critical and severe issues plus an additional $2,491,500 in repairs over the next 20 years. According to staff, in subsequent conversations, Rosenbaum indicated that even with these substantial expenditures, the garage facility could be nearing the end of its economic life in approximately 25 years.

“It is Mr. Rosenbaum’s professional opinion that the City should expend approximately $400,000 of the above-mentioned $1,308,500 to assure the integrity and stability of the garage before and during the Washington Square construction, which includes some repairs that could not be completed without the nearby excavation such as a waterproofing of the subsurface southern wall.” – City of Tallahassee Staff

Yet, because of the City’s lease of those three parcels beneath the parking garage, the decision to conduct these critical repairs requires coordination with and approval by the above noted owners (Lessors). And the Lessors may not necessarily be interested in selling their parcels of land to the city.

Oh, and did we mention that soon, work will begin on Lowes Hotel at Washington Square next door? Yes, we’re excited!

To remedy the issue of land ownership impacting the decision to repair/replace the Eastside garage, the City is considering a number of options, but two primarily:

  1. Direct staff to negotiate a purchase with the Lessors of the three parcels totaling 0.41 acre and expend approximately $400,000 for immediate repairs to assure the stability of the Eastside garage during the construction of Washington Square.
  2. Direct staff to exercise the option to negotiate the land lease for an additional 18 years instead of 25 years state in the lease and expend approximately $400,000 for immediate repairs to assure the stability of the Eastside garage during the construction of Washington Square.

The $400,000 would come from the City’s Deficiencies Fund which currently has a balance of $26.9 Million. According to agenda material City staff will return at a later date with an item to reimburse the Deficiencies Fund through either an internal loan pool or bond funding. The City will continue to pay rent based upon the payment structure in the impacted lease agreements.

Washington Square site is situated immediately adjacent to the City’s Eastside parking garage and directly east of the Leon County Courthouse and north of the County-Owned Bank of America building. | UrbanTallahassee Images

Another option the City may consider is one put forth by Fairmont Tallahassee, LLC, developers of the Washington Square project, to reconstruct a new parking garage simultaneously and in coordination with the adjacent Washington Square development. This move would be seen as a public/private partnership and could prove beneficial to City and developer considering the parking spaces that would be displaced by the redevelopment of the City garage for any repairs needed. A garage at Washington Square could temporarily alleviate pressure on the Eastside garage until a new one is reconstructed. As many as 1,100 new parking spaces could be created out of such a partnership. It is unclear from agenda how much this option would cost the City.

City staff is recommending the Commission Direct negotiations to purchase the land from the three Lessors and expend the $00,000 needed to assure the short-term stability of the garage. The Commission will vote on this item during a regularly scheduled City Commission meeting on March 21st.

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