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Liberty-James Parking Garage Reaches Critical Point

ROME — It’s at the crucial point where something needs to be done — much like the status of the city’s Liberty-James car park, engineers told city officials.

Architect Steven Kushner of Bergmann Architects, Engineers, Planners of Rochester outlined four options for the city regarding the future of the downtown garage, built during the city’s urban renewal efforts in the 1990s. 1970 and now showing significant wear from its more than 50 years of existence.

But whatever plan they choose, Kushner told city officials and Common Council members on Wednesday that they needed to act quickly, given the unsafe and deteriorating conditions at the garage.

Among Kushner’s development options: rehabilitation, replacement, removal or partial construction.

“We’ve been working on it for a number of years – it’s been a process to see where you’re at over the repairs,” Kushner said. “If you decide not to repair, dismantle or do anything else, we cannot take responsibility knowing what we know about the garage. Over time, it does not improve or repair itself. You have to do something with where we are today.

Wednesday’s presentation began with a guided tour of the Liberty James Garage. My council members, Deputy Director of Community and Economic Development Matthew Andrews, City Planners, Chief Codes Enforcement Officer Mark Domenico and City Engineer II Joseph Guiliano.

Professional engineer Christopher N. Latreille led the walking tour, pointing out the rusting rebar running across the garage deck and the deterioration of the supporting concrete from water and salt corrosion. He said that in some areas the concrete is at the point of breaking and falling.

As for the parking surface, a “membrane” was applied around 2006, but it had “not been maintained lately,” Guiliano said, saying that in recent years only “band-aids” had been applied. applied to problem areas.

Latreille warned city officials that Rome would have to invest in an “aggressive” repair program if council members decided to retain and repair the current garage, but strongly recommended demolition.

“There’s no immediate threat of collapse, but this garage is so badly in need of work that you’re at the point where you need a new garage,” Latreille said. “It’s either” expensive aggressive repair program or teardown, that’s where we are right now.

During the presentation in the boardroom after the tour, Kushner said that some structural issues with the garage “may not be obvious, but we’re at the point where the next step could be the concrete drop, which that we want to avoid. The electrical engineers said all the electrical components needed to be replaced, period,” adding that Bergmann began his evaluation of the garage following the submission of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative of the city ​​in 2018.

Kushner said some of the garage exits had exposed wires coming out of cable boxes in stairway areas that needed to be closed off. He said the plumbing was going through (the walls) and the conduit was rusty to the point that you could see the wires inside.

“DRI’s original expectation, we thought it would take little structural and lighting repairs, but we can’t even meet that,” Kushner said. “Previous repairs have been ineffective, which is a major concern.”

The architect said if the city is leaning towards rehabilitating the garage, officials should consider whether the cost is worth the expected life of the structure. If fixed, Kushner said it would only extend the life of the garage by 10 to 15 years.

“We could remove the garage and put the same thing in its place, but does it need it?” he asked. “There hasn’t been a time when the garage has seen cars across the board. The size doesn’t seem necessary. The quickest (and cheapest) option would be to demolish the garage and replace it by surface land to meet parking demands, then you could develop the site in the future” if the demand warranted it.

Instead of simply replacing the garage with surface land, Kushner said the city could also choose to build a smaller, one-level garage on a smaller footprint.

And while the repairs would only extend the life of the current garage by 10 to 15 years, Kushner described this as the “high-risk solution”.

“Once we start opening things up, are there more issues in the concrete that we’re not aware of?” Kushner asked. “It would be something that would have to be addressed at that time if things happened beyond what we anticipate.”

Kushner also warned that since the presentation of initial work estimates in 2019, construction, materials and construction management have increased significantly and continue to intensify since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From 2019 to 2022 you had three years of escalating 2 1/2 to 3% inflation every year, but now everything is even higher in the construction industry, and it’s hard to get materials,” he said.

Repair and rehabilitation

Kushner presented a breakdown of expected costs for each option:

• Option 1 — Garage repair and rehabilitation for continuous service in one construction phase: $7.4 million;

• Option 2 — Repair and Rehabilitation as a five-year multi-phase construction project: $8.1 million;

• Option 3 — Partial demolition and repair: $8.4 million and more.

Replacement in kind

Includes a 50-year long-term solution; would reconsider office space for state offices in a less vulnerable location; code updates and facade improvements. However, Bergmann representatives said the option would require ongoing maintenance and there is no demand for a garage of this size at present, with much of the garage sitting unused.

• Estimated cost: $23,600,000

Replace with surface land

Long-term solution that meets the anticipated parking demand (135 spaces and green space); forces state offices to move; can consider covered parking areas with photovoltaic panels above the parking area for buses and motorhomes; requires less maintenance; least risky solution — no more unknowns to cause future damage and no vertical structures to maintain; preferred concept development.

• Estimated cost: $3 million

Replace with a smaller garage

Long-term solution that adapts to future growth; the raised terrace probably has a useful life of 50 years (with 200 seats); allows for a more open site; forces state offices to move; requires ongoing maintenance; moderate risk solution — high initial cost with uncertain parking demand; and high cost/parking spot option.

Total estimated cost: $11 million

To advance

Councilors asked if the results of a parking study were available in order to know the demand for spaces needed downtown before a final decision is made. Deputy Director of Community and Economic Development Andrews said his office is awaiting the latest round of updates on the study, but does not expect the projected numbers to change dramatically. With around 550 spaces scratched in the garage currently, Andrews said that in 2019, garage utilization was around 28% and “garage utilization is down (compared to that) this year.”

Andrews added that the city currently has about $1.28 million in DRI funding for the garage, which “puts us in the demolition cost range.” City officials said Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo was also interested in an American Rescue Plan Act funding commitment to the garage project.

Andrews said once a decision is made on which option to take and the project is approved, the city has until the end of 2024 to spend the allocated DRI funding, and ARPA funding must be committed. by 2024 and in use by 2026.

Council chair Stephanie Viscelli said she would prefer the council see the traffic study before deciding “yes” or “no” on either option. She said that once the traffic study is available, the council could act quickly. City officials said they would work to get the numbers to councilors as soon as possible so parking legislation could be on the May 25 city council agenda.

Deena S. Hawkins

The author Deena S. Hawkins