City to consider connectors for downtown garage

The developer of a five-story parking garage downtown is seeking city approval to build two upper-level pedestrian connectors to offer easier access to the garage, especially for employees of nearby OneAmerica Financial Partners Inc.

The request from Flaherty & Collins Properties is set to be heard Wednesday by the Metropolitan Development Commission’s plat committee.

One bridge would extend over West New York Street to the south of the garage and would connect directly into the OneAmerica building. The other would extend over Vermont Street to the north and onto steps leading to a surface parking lot, said Jim Crossin, Flaherty’s director of development.

The north connector is not part of the original construction plans for the garage and could be undertaken by eventual garage owner OneAmerica at a later time, Crossin said. The company is interested in building the bridge, however, because it has employees and tenants in its Gibson Building at the far end of the surface lot north of the proposed parking garage, he said.

The city’s Department of Public Works said in planning documents that it has no objections to the bridges as long as they are built at least 17-1/2 feet above ground and do not hinder motorists’ ability to see traffic signals.

The bridge over West New York Street would include two support columns located within the right-of-way of the street. Flaherty is proposing to vacate a 180-square-foot area for the columns. The columns would be south of the sidewalk near the OneAmerica building and near a landscaped area, so pedestrian access to the sidewalk would not be affected, the plans said.

Staff of the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development is recommending approval of the bridges.

The new parking garage would pave the way for an $85 million development set to bring a Marsh store and hundreds of apartments to surface parking lots bounded by Michigan Street, Capitol Avenue, Vermont Street and Indiana Avenue.

As incentive, city leaders agreed to contribute $13 million for the garage, which would be owned by OneAmerica. The garage would be built with similar materials as the OneAmerica Tower.

The Metropolitan Development Commission last week approved plans for the parking garage despite objections from a group of urban policy advocates. They wanted the city to either request a redesign of the garage to provide more first-floor retail, or move the garage to the block’s interior, leaving the frontage along Capitol Avenue and Illinois Street open for better development possibilities.

The 1,000-space structure will provide just 1,500 square feet of street-level retail space, or less than what city guidelines recommend. Instead, Flaherty and garage designer CSO Architects offered to add additional landscaping and faux storefront windows for an “improved urban streetscape.”

Construction of the parking garage could be completed by late fall, Crossin said.

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