EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
MARBLE FALLS — It’s not just for the hotel/conference center.
That’s one of the messages that came out of the city of Marble Falls’ Capital Improvement Plan Committee meeting Aug. 3, particularly in regards to a proposed $4.5 million parking garage.
The committee was reviewing the proposed five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which could go before the Marble Falls City Council during its Sept. 5 regular meeting for final approval. The CIP is a planning and budgeting tool used to outline infrastructure projects the city might want to or will tackle in the coming years.
Part of the committee’s responsibilities is prioritizing projects in utilities, streets, parks, and facilities.
“This a five-year document, but it’s updated every year,” city engineer Eric Belaj said.
The CIP outlines the priorities and the years the city might tackle the projects as well as estimated costs.
During the discussion regarding city facilities, the proposed downtown parking garage came up. The structure, with an estimated cost of $4.5 million, would sit adjacent to the proposed hotel/conference center complex on Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. property along Lake Marble Falls. Funding for the 277-space parking garage could come through the city issuing certificates of obligation with reimbursement coming from a number of sources, including a 10 percent contribution by the hotel/conference center partner, hotel occupancy taxes, and revenue from the parking spaces themselves.
CIP committee chairman Brian Shirley admitted the cost of the garage raised his eyebrows a bit, especially getting “popped” into the plan. But Assistant City Manager Caleb Kraenzel pointed out that while it might seem like the parking garage just “popped” in, particularly in the context of funding, the City Council has been well aware of the situation, had been discussing it in executive sessions, and is up to date on it.
CIP committee vice chairman Steve Reitz pointed out one of the things that appears to be getting lost in the public discussion or perception of the parking garage is why it’s needed. It’s not just for the hotel/conference center; that’s only one part of the picture, he said.
Reitz referred to the city’s plans on developing and improving the downtown parks, which includes adding walking trails, an amphitheater with seating for up to 1,500 people, a beach, a boardwalk, a replacement boat ramp, a second smaller amphitheater, a pedestrian bridge, and many other amenities. The downtown park project is broken up into three phases with the city looking to fund Phase 1A during the 2017-18 fiscal year.
The entire downtown parks project could be completed by 2022.
City Manager Mike Hodge added that the CIP also includes improvements for parks outside the downtown area, which are part of the five-year scope of the plan.
With all the improvements aimed at the downtown parks and working to better tie in the area with Main Street and the rest of the nearby city, the lakeside parks themselves will become a tremendous draw for people, events, and activities, Reitz pointed out.
Even without the hotel/conference center, the city would likely need more parking near the Marble Falls lakeside area just to accommodate expected growth in use and visits. Add the proposed hotel/conference center in the mix, and the size and scope of a surface parking lot would be overwhelming for the downtown area.
“We’d need 35 acres just to build a parking lot we need,” Reitz said.
Kraenzel said the city looked into the feasibility of a surface parking lot, but there were a number of problems with the idea. One was just finding the necessary property and space.
The other was the reality of such a lot.
It would be like plopping a Walmart parking lot at the end of Main Street, Kraenzel said.
“It wouldn’t fit in with the downtown master plan or the architecture,” he added.
A parking garage, city officials determined, was the most feasible option.
And while the hotel/conference center and garage have drawn the ire of some residents, development of the area was likely to come. In 2013, developer Charlie Teeple of Teeple Partners proposed building a three- to four-story condominium building on the property between the current Lakeside Park boat ramp and Hampton Inn. He downsized the plan a bit after the city planning and zoning committee expressed concerns, but it was heading for development.
The Marble Falls EDC eventually was able to purchase the property from Teeple. That land is now included as part of the downtown park project.
Reitz urged people to step back and look at the entire picture and not get caught up in just a piece here and there.
“We’re growing,” he said. “We have to plan for it.”
Other items in the five-year CIP include a possible new City Hall (but kept downtown), adding a second fire station, and 11 street projects, including Yett Street from Main Street to Avenue J, Broadway from Avenue G to Avenue D, and Nature Heights Drive.
Hodge pointed out the CIP committee’s role is prioritizing the projects while the approval and funding mechanisms fall to City Council.
Go to ci.marble-falls.tx.us/135/city-engineer to see the full draft of the 2017-22 Capital Improvement Plan.