Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Multistory Parking Garage Needed for Downtown

At left is a picture of downtown Brownsville. The Gateway Int'l Bridge is seen at right with International Blvd and 14th Street leading up to the Int'l Bridge. Elizabeth St intersects at International Blvd and the Gateway Int'l Bridge.

Downtown Brownsville has been suffering for a long time but I don’t just mean economically and population wise. What’s not helping downtown is the lack of parking. Try finding a parking spot during the weekday or better yet, in the weekend and you’ll get the idea. It’s virtually impossible.

The idea of a parking garage in downtown is not new and has been a topic of discussion for many years. The furthest evidence that I have found of a parking garage being discussed by the city was back in April of 97 mentioned in the Brownsville Herald’s article: City/county clash on garage

A garage was necessary then and it is now. Eventhough downtown doesn't cater to the wealthy it does attract many people that are poor to middle class as well as tourists and Winter Texans. The downtown is home to a parking garage in what is now called Duffey Plaza next to the El Jardin hotel, which was purchased by the City from UTB/TSC. The City is doing some renovation work to the building but I do not think that the garage will be open to the public. It has about five levels and situated one block from the busy Elizabeth Street. Building a multilevel garage today is expensive. For 250 parking spaces, that would equate to roughly $5 Million bucks and that depends on the size and floors that it would require. That's no small change from a city that can use every penney that it can get.

In the Brownsville Herald's article above, it is mentioned that the county wanted to build the garage on the corner of 14th St and Elizabeth St. It was argured that this location would inhibit traffic flow and cause numerous problems because at that time, the Veterans International Bridge was not in existance and therefore, 85% of the traffic would go through the Gateway Interational Bridge located at the foot of International Blvd and Elizabeth St; just where the proposed garage was to be built. If anyone remembers back before the Veterans Bridge was built, traffic along International Blvd, 14th Street, and Elizabeth St were a NIGHTMARE! Traffic would be bumper-to-bumper on International Blvd all the way back to the Expressway 77/83; that's about 20 blocks! Add to the fact that International Blvd was also the main entrance to UTB/TSC and the main truck route to Mexico. Trucks would line up almost infinately along International Blvd blocking streets and creating frustration and rage. 14th Street was the same with vehicles. 14th Street would also connect to the Gateway Bridge. Now you begin to see the picture as to why the idea of a parking garage at in front of the Gateway Int'l Bridge didn't fly.

Fast forward to 2005 and this situation with traffic mentioned above is a thing of the past; if anyone remembers anymore. Today, the Veterans International Bridge, which is connected to the Expressway 77/83, is the only truck route relieving stress and traffic along International Blvd. 14th St was closed off between Elizabeth and Washington St so the only way to the Gateway Bridge are through Elizabeth St and Int'l Blvd. UTB/TSC now has a new main entrace with the construction of the new East Loop (oops, University Blvd) that connects Elizabeth St with the Expressway 77/83. Now, the proposed mulitlevel garage at the original site on the corner of 14th St and Elizabeth St is now possible.

The city should seriously consider building a garage for downtown since parking the one of the most important factors in attracting people to downtown. It is one of the most common complaints people had with going ot downtown, according to a report by the Hunter Interests, an Annapolis, Md. firm that did a survey of revitalizing downtown back in 2001. Without adequate parking, downtown will continue to suffer from frustrated customers to downtown. Although a garage is not the cure all for the downtown's ills, it is a step in the right direction to entice more people to shop there.

At this point in time, I don't believe that anyone at City Hall or the county have been thinking about a parking garage. It's been a long time since that last discussion of one but there yet lies hope with the construction of the new Multimodal Terminal (mentioned in this blog). The terminal has recieved funding from the state but unfotunately, the funding does not include a garage. With any luck, the city could still consider building a garage at some future day.

Ultimately, downtown will require a garage wether it's built tomorrow or in the future. One can not envision a downtown with no garage to support it. Just look at cities such as San Antonio, Houston, Chicago, and yes, even McAllen. The bigger a city grows, the more reason to build a garage. There's far more space going up than sideways and as more land gets taken up by buildings, less land will be available for parking. With any luck, someone at City Hall will read this article and bring this idea up for discussion.

Until then, people will continue circling downtown like sopilotes (vultures) looking for prey, in this case, parking.

TonyL


3 Comments:

Blogger Jorge Krieg said...

Would underground parking garages be a solution? Considering the fact that most of the downtown area is saturated with buildings, and the fact that many would not want to walk or even take ride to the downtown area. I think that underground garages is a possible solution. The only thing woould be the possibility of them being too close to the water table and during floods, etc.. But I think it is an option looking into. Space is at a premium you know.

11:11 AM  
Blogger TonyL said...

The problem with underground garages is many:

1. Cost. It is more expensive to build underground than above.

2. You don't really know what you're getting into such as unmarked sewer pipes or other types of pipes and then i the ones that are marked must be moved elsewhere (very expensive!). Remember that B'ville is very old and just about anything could be underground.

3. Flooding. It's not like SA where water can run off and drain properly cuz of the hills. Here in B'ville the land is as flat as a calm body of water and will naturally pool in the lowest point, this case an underground garage. how would you drain the garage? You would need to build drain pipes that would drain directly into the river or a resaca. again, very expensive.

4. the water level may be too shallow and therefore require reinforced concrete to hold up the walls. Expensive.

Ultimately, it's too expensive to build down than up, though not to say that going up is cheap cuz it ain't but when compared to both, up is cheaper.

Btw, I did mention this during one of the DRAC (Downtown revitalization Advisory Committee, which I'm a part of) meetings about an underground garage and those were their words.

We can even get them to build up, much less down.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool guestbook, interesting information... Keep it UP
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7:29 PM  

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