Whitefish Takes Early Steps Toward a Parking Structure

By Beacon Staff

As part of an effort to map out a plan for parking in downtown Whitefish, the city has hired a firm to conduct a parking deck and structure feasibility study.

On July 16, the Whitefish City Council voted 5-1 to award Kimley-Horn and Associates a contract worth $97,595 to complete the study. Councilor Phil Mitchell cast the lone dissenting vote.

Kimley-Horn and Associates had been selected and unanimously approved by a selection committee consisting of Mayor John Muhlfeld, Public Works Director John Wilson, Finance Director Rich Knapp and City Manager Chuck Stearns.

The city is asking the firm to evaluate four potential sites for a parking deck or structure: the BNSF parking lot north of the O’Shaughnessy Center; the current City Hall site; the surface lot on the corner of Spokane Avenue and Second Street; and the open lot at the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Third Street.

The city is also updating its downtown master plan, which will address parking. A meeting is scheduled at 7 p.m. on Aug. 23 at the O’Shaughnessy Center to discuss both the update and the feasibility study.

The firm’s evaluation will include assessments of each site’s physical characteristics, preliminary conceptual design layouts and an analysis of pros and cons. From there, the list of four sites will be whittled down to two.

Those two sites will then be taken into the conceptual design phase. The design team will provide cost estimates in its evaluation.

The firm will be working with a team that includes MMW Architects of Missoula, WGM Group of Missoula and TD&H Engineering of Kalispell. That’s the same team, minus TD&H, that is nearing completion on a five-story parking structure with 340 spaces on Front Street in Missoula, according to a report from Stearns.

Whitefish officials have identified downtown parking as the city’s highest priority for tax-increment funds. The city’s downtown master plan names a public parking structure as a priority catalyst project.

In 2008, the city considered a three-level parking garage at the corner of Spokane and Second, where there is currently a surface lot. That location is once again on the table as a possibility for a multi-level structure with retail incorporated into the first level.

As a theoretical example, Stearns said in a report that if a 267-space parking structure were built at $22,000 per space, the cost would be $5,874,000. The contract with Kimley-Horn and Associates represents 1.66 percent of the construction costs. Total engineering costs, Stearns noted, are typically 15-18 percent of construction costs.

“Part of the feasibility study’s scope of work,” Stearns wrote in his report, “is to give a more accurate cost per space and per square foot for any parking decks or structures.”

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