City of Tulsa breaks ground on new downtown parking garage

Monday, April 7th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

When is a parking garage more than just a parking garage? When it's built by the city of Tulsa in the downtown district, both of which have struggled of late.

As News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg tells us, Monday ground was broken for what’s hope to be a breakthrough in downtown revitalization.

Tulsa City Planner Tony Lombardi can simply point to the crowded streets around the site for the new city parking garage and tell you why it's needed. "It's pretty tough to get a parking space within walking distance of the prime buildings, the class-A buildings that we look at."

There are a lot of vacancies downtown, but Lombardi says that's the very thing that is causing businesses to migrate back, because the price for downtown office space is now so low. “I wouldn't say that it's coming back. I wouldn't be so bold to say that, but what I would say is that there's space available at good rates and there are aggressive companies out there leasing and they're doing a good job for downtown Tulsa."

This is just the fifth city-parking garage since the early 70's. And aesthetically speaking; they feel they've set a new standard. "It's going to have some beautiful architecture exterior, and it's going to include retail, office and other arrangements that are going to be part of the revitalization rather than just another parking garage."

For those who worry the city is digging too deep a hole financially, Lombardi says the garage only needs 40% occupancy to break even, and he says they can do that in their sleep. And they were conservative, actually building fewer spaces than what studies said the area would support. Besides professionals, they say the blossoming entertainment district will provide plenty of parkers. And they say Grade-A parking is essential to both retain and attract companies downtown, which they believe has a lot of life left. Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune, "You've got billions of dollars in infrastructure and we're not about to just turn our backs on it and just let it dry up and blow away."

The garage is financed with revenue bonds, so it will be paid for by the people who use it. It's scheduled to open in about 15 months.