I have been attending meetings and following the Whitefish City Hall and Parking Garage project for the past few years as the issue has been at the forefront of council business. This project will be important for the business and character of downtown Whitefish and deserves the attention it has received. As we all know, it is the focal point of the community. I am familiar with this corner and have been fortunate to have worked on the renovation for the old Credit Union into the city offices and the renovation of the old library into the council and court chambers so I understand the dynamics of this site.
The architect proposals for this site are excellent and offer many good ideas. I thank these firms for their efforts and appreciate the designs. However, one design stands away from the others. The concept that allows the City Hall to stand alone as a civic icon is exceptional. This proposal places parking underground and at street level and only at the cost of 50 parking spaces and saves $3 million (architects estimate) from the proposed budget. This design allows sunlight to penetrate along the alleyway and adjacent shops.
This proposal also allows for future expansion of the City Hall. The City Hall will have views to the mountains and light penetrating into the building, something we can appreciate during the dark days of winter. This City Hall design recognizes the beauty of this place and the importance of the city center, not overwhelmed by a massive parking structure that will cast shadows over the walkways and dominate City Hall. This concept will allow landscaped walkways that buffer the cars parked at street level. The surface parking is more likely to be used by local citizens. It would also allow some of the savings derived from this concept to be used for solar photovoltaics on the roof for the garage lighting and to supplement the operation of City Hall. The city could also use some of this savings to purchase satellite landscaped parking lots, thereby distributing parking around the downtown business district for adjacent shops, restaurants and offices.