Elon’s town council has decided to put the brakes on a plan to develop more public parking in the town’s downtown business district – and to reallocate some of the funds reserved for this venture to the construction of a new plaza along West College Avenue.
The council made this U-turn from parking to plaza construction on Tuesday after Elon’s town manager Richard Roedner presented its members with bids for both of these long-contemplated endeavors.
During a regularly-scheduled meeting that evening, Roedner informed the council that the town had received submissions from several contractors when it recently solicited bids to expand the town’s complement of public parking along the railroad tracks off of West Lebanon Avenue.
Roedner noted that plans for this venture called for the construction of 71 spots to supplement the 82 that the town already has in this area, which lies on the periphery of Elon’s downtown development district. He added that the low bid for this project came from Hollins Construction Services, which agreed to build the proposed parking spaces for $312,930.
Rather than advise the council to accept this bid, the town manager voiced his doubts that the additional parking spots are worth the expense given that the existing spaces are rarely filled to capacity.
“That really got me questioning whether we need to make that investment now,” he went on to acknowledge. “It seemed like we were solving a perceived problem that doesn’t exist…The recommendation is that we not pursue this project and that we not award the contract.”
Roedner went on to suggest that the town reinvest a portion of the $163,000 that it had set aside for these parking spaces to develop a new downtown plaza along West College Avenue. He added that the town had also solicited bids for the plaza’s construction, which elicited a single offer from Bar Construction, which agreed to undertake the project for $435,700.
Roedner reminded the council that it had previously reserved $200,000 for the plaza’s development and that it had a standing offer from Elon University to chip in another $170,000. He added that, by diverting $100,000 from the parking spaces on West Lebanon, the council could fully cover Bar Construction’s proposed fee along with a modest contingency.
This proposed tradeoff initially raised some concerns for councilman Monti Allison, who observed that the town may find itself in need of more parking if the proposed downtown plaza proves to be as popular as the town’s leaders have hoped.
“Since we’re building a plaza, the last thing we want is no parking,” Allison said. “But as you pointed out, there’s vacant parking there now…So, I agree with the town manager, and I would like to see that [money] used for some capital improvement that will benefit us more [than the proposed parking spaces on West Lebanon].”
Roedner’s proposal proved less of a head scratcher for Elon’s mayor Emily Sharpe.
“I was here for the block party and the [existing, 82-space] parking lot wasn’t full. Yet, that was the most people we’ve had in downtown in a long time,” she recalled. “To me, it makes more sense to invest this money elsewhere where we can be more strategic.”
Meanwhile, councilman Quinn Ray suggested that the town could encourage private developers to build more parking if it becomes necessary at some point in the future.
Allison and Ray ultimately joined councilman Randy Orwig in a 3-to-0 vote to scuttle the additional parking along West Lebanon. They also voted 3-to-0 to accept Bar Construction’s bid for the plaza and to reallocate a portion of the funds earmarked for the parking expansion to cover the contractor’s fees.
Absent from Tuesday’s meeting for health reasons, and consequently not counted in either of these votes, were council members Mark Greene and Stephanie Bourland.
See other Elon town council news:
Council considers higher downtown parking fines: https://alamancenews.com/elon-to-hold-public-hearing-on-proposed-hike-in-parking-fines/
Proposed budget has major property tax increase: https://alamancenews.com/elon-town-manager-proposes-budget-plan-with-tax-rate-14-percent-higher-than-revenue-neutral/