The Downtown Development Authority approved the contribution of $20,000 toward demolition of the old Top Hat and Bible Book Store, along with another $15,000 for the construction of a parking lot that would create at least 19 new spaces at that corner. The Historic Preservation Commission will review the proposal next Wednesday afternoon.
The $35,000 comes from a pool of $60,000 that the Business Improvement District allocated for major improvements to downtown properties in 2012.
Ira Levy, who owns the property, will lease the lot back to the city for $1 a year for three years. DDA Executive Director Ann Arnold said that after three years, Levy would hopefully have financing in place to move forward with the construction of a multi-story, mixed-use retail and residential development on the site.
The Historic Preservation Commission approved Levy’s project, with modifications, last year. Those modifications, which would have required Levy to remove balconies overhanging the Broad Street façade, were not acceptable to Levy, so the project has been on hold ever since.
Ann Pullen cast the lone
dissenting vote regarding the $15,000 for the parking lot.
“I’m very concerned about giving $35,000 to one project,” Pullen said. “That is more than half of our $60,000 budget.”
Levy said he would know more after the Historic Preservation Commission meeting next week.
“I’m normally opposed to tearing down buildings, but this is an exception,” Arnold said. “A parking lot is not the highest and best use of that corner. It’s a temporary fix.”
The preliminary budget for the demolition is approximately $65,000, so the cost of demolition to Levy would be about $45,000.
The estimated budget for the parking lot development is $31,000. Anything above the $15,000 grant approved Thursday will come from the DDA parking management account.
The upside for Levy is that after three years, if he has financing for his mixed-use project, the property will already have a solid foundation.
Board member Jay Shell said that even if the property were a parking lot for 10 years it would be better than what is there now.
Alice Herring, a DDA Board member whose Ford, Gittings & Kane Jewelers is a neighbor to the property, said her business was absolutely in favor of the plan.
“It would help our restaurants a lot,” she said of the parking. “It’s a lot better than what we have now.”
The new parking lot, coupled with the existing parking behind the buildings, would create a total of 41 parking spaces that would be managed by the Downtown Development Authority. There has been no discussion yet if those spaces would be open to the public.