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- 2012 - September - 7th -

Parador parking garage progresses

by Max Marbut, Staff Writer

Build a parking garage that doesn’t look like a parking garage.

That was the instruction given Thursday by the Downtown Development Review Board of the City Office of Economic Development to designers of a 600-space multilevel parking facility proposed for the property adjacent to SunTrust Tower.

Conceptual approval for the design was granted by a 3-1 vote of the board along with several suggestions for the final design that must be approved before the project can begin.

The board rejected the first design presented and deferred action on the conceptual approval at its June meeting, based partially on the lack of space designated for retail in the structure. It then conducted a public workshop with architects from Haskell, which is designing the project for Parador Partners of Atlanta, the owners of SunTrust Tower.

“The design needs to be something like we’ve never seen,” said board member Chris Flagg after the workshop. He cast the lone dissenting vote Thursday.

“I feel we crept up on it, but didn’t consume ourselves with the innovative response. It looks like a garage with retail that might be added at a later date,” he said, referring to the two-phase design approach presented Thursday.

Before the design presentation, Paul Crawford, acting director of the economic development office, outlined the proposed business side of the project.

He said Parador seeks to construct only the garage and then, when occupancy of the building increases from the existing 20 percent to 65 percent, construct an additional retail element along the Hogan Street side of the building.

Parador principal Ashish Bahl said the specific type of future retail would be determined by the needs of the businesses in the building once the 65-percent level is achieved.

“Are they going to be health care, high-tech or waste management?” he said of possible tenants.

In the meantime, the area would be used as an open space with trees, benches and utilities for transient vendors.

Crawford reminded the board that the City has enacted a development agreement with Parador for the project. In 2011, City Council approved a $3.5 million subsidy for the garage, plus up to $1.6 million in additional funds based on the designation of parking spaces in the garage for public use.

He said he expects the office tower could be at the 65 percent occupancy level “in the next two years, or shortly thereafter.”

Board member Roland Udenze, who removed himself from voting on the project because he’s an architect at Haskell, said he is concerned about the establishment of an active element in the design that would have to be eliminated to construct the retail portion of the project.

“What happens if that space is successful as an open plaza?” he said.

Tim Miller, board chair, said although he “felt pretty good” after the workshop, the design looked “pillboxy” and that the final design should better complement the adjacent properties.

“Look at it as more than just a parking garage,” he said.

Flagg suggested changing the design to include environmentally conscious elements such as plant material on its exterior walls, a “green roof” and LED lighting.

“We need to be as innovative as we can be if we’re going to put a parking garage in a prime location,” he said.

Following the board’s comments, Haskell Director of Project Development John Norris said putting so many conditions on what the client has to provide could make the project untenable.

“There is a break-even point. You can only do so much to a building before it becomes financially unfeasible. How much can you ask of one particular project? It is a parking garage. Putting a green wall on a building does not make more people want to park in it,” he said.

After the two-hour discussion about the garage, the board sent another project back to the drawing board – deferring action on proposed new signage for the Aetna Building on the Southbank.

The company has changed its logo and has applied to replace existing signage on the top of the building with a smaller, bolder design based on the new logo.

Agreeing that the proposed new sign is “too big and too purple,” the board instructed Randy Ginzig, president of General Sign Service Corp., to attempt to work out another design with Aetna.

mmarbut@baileypub.com

@drmaxdowntown

356-2466

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