Much of the feedback from Moscow Urban Renewal Agency Commissioners and members of the public Thursday morning to potential developers of the Sixth and Jackson streets property consisted of questions and concerns about available parking at the site.
The board heard two development proposal presentations for the agency’s downtown property.
The first proposal — presented by two members of RGU Architecture and Planning and one from Big Sky Construction Management/General Construction, both companies out of Lewiston — consists of a four-story building with commercial spaces and possibly up to five apartment units on the ground floor with 42 units on the top three levels.
The developers proposed 36 one-bedroom units and six two-bedroom spaces.
Thirty-one parking spaces would be provided — 11 on the 16,000-square-foot triangular Sixth Street parcel and 20 stalls on the 11,000-square-foot triangular Jackson Street lot.
Rusty Olps, a Moscow developer, and Austin Storm, owner of The Storm Cellar on South Main Street in Moscow, presented their proposed five-story “Moscow Flatiron” structure on the Sixth Street frontage.
The Storm Cellar would make up the first floor, the middle three floors would consist of 42 studio apartments and the fifth floor would be comprised of commercial spaces. The property would include 36 parking spaces, with 19 on the west end of the building and 17 on the southern parcel.
MURA Executive Director Bill Belknap said the agency received three proposals but the developer of one, which included a hotel, withdrew his proposal because he determined the hospitality industry would not likely support an additional hotel in the city.
Both proposals exceed the city’s parking requirements. The four-story proposal would require 28 spaces but provides 31 while the Moscow Flatiron would require 27 spaces but 36 are proposed. Per the Urban Renewal Agency’s plan, a Hello Walk is expected to run diagonally between the two parcels on both proposals.
Blaine McMahan, owner of Big Sky CM/GC, said the proposed Hello Walk running down the middle of the property makes the site extremely challenging to provide enough parking.
“The only way we’re going to increase that 31 spaces of parking, in my opinion, is going vertical, and that’s tough to do on a triangle,” McMahan said.Commissioner Trent Bice said it would be great if students — the primary tenants expected at the site — did not bring their cars, but asked what Plan B was if most of the tenants used a car.
“It’s unachievable unless you let me build over the Hello Walk,” McMahan responded.
McMahan said if the pathway was re-routed to the north, then more parking could be provided.
As for the Moscow Flatiron developers, Storm said people who complain about a lack of parking spaces downtown generally are referring to the inability to park directly in front of the business they are seeking to visit. He said people can find parking if they are willing to cross Washington or Jackson streets.
Olps said his office is 400 to 500 feet from the vacant site and he rarely has trouble finding parking on Almon and Asbury streets, which are extremely congested, he said.
Developers for both proposals said they would consider incentives for tenants who do not bring a car to the apartment complex. Olps said if there was a parking problem, he has the capacity to create parking spaces within 500 feet of the property.
Four members of the public spoke during the public comment period and all of them were troubled by potential parking issues or addressed the parking challenges the developers faced.
Victoria Seever, one of the audience members, said she would love to see the projects built somewhere in Moscow but was unsure if Sixth and Jackson was the right spot.
“Parking is still going to be an overarching problem,” she said.
She said parking problems at the Identity on Main apartment complex on South Main Street are starting to surface as many residents are forced to park in neighboring areas because of a lack of parking spaces provided.
Stuart Scott, another Moscow resident, also mentioned Identity and that he does not want similar parking issues to arise.
“People will poach parking,” he said. “They’ll be parking in somebody else’s space because they need to do that.”
Although both proposed projects meet the city’s parking requirements, Scott said it is not enough.
“I emphasize that the parking as presently projected by both projects is compliant with city code but insufficient,” he said.
McMahan said Locker Room, a barber shop in Lewiston; a child day care facility; food and drink services and others could occupy the ground floor of his proposal.
Lauri Uhrich, of RGU, said their proposal would promote economic growth and provide resources, such as a day care.
“It’s an anchor building that creates a hub,” Uhrich said. “It’s a hub of innovation. It’s a hub of gathering. It’s a hub of sharing of ideas and it’s a place where people live.”
Olps said his and Storm’s proposal allows people to shop on the ground floor, live on the middle floors, work on the fifth floor and garden on the roof.“This is a gateway building to downtown,” Olps said.
He said he wants the building to represent the prominence, distinction and economic vitality of the downtown that everyone knows and loves.
“This is big,” Olps said. “There are not too many buildings that are five stories in the downtown area, especially on that end.”
He said multiple parties are interested in occupying the fifth-floor offices and he is excited about the event space and green space on the roof.
“We are taking a stab at balancing a huge construction project with nature,” Olps said.
The agency board will evaluate the proposals and potentially make a decision at its Feb. 21 meeting.
“You have an ability and mission to wait for the right project to come along that works for the city — not just about real estate,” Seever said. “If you need to step back and recapture your criteria a little bit for these corner properties, then do it. You don’t have to take the first one that comes along.”
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.