Downtown Development Director Ann Arnold is still working with Downtown Parking Manager Becky Smyth to develop plans for the parking lot, which is a short term project since Ira Levy still has plans to develop a multi-story mixed-use retail/residential building on the property.
Levy is leasing the property to the Downtown Development Authority for $1 a year.
One of the reasons it is taking extra time to demolish the buildings is that Levy is attempting to salvage as much of the brick as is possible for re-use in his retail/residential project.
The Rome Historic Preservation Commission approved plans for the building, but did not go along with Levy’s desire for upper floor residential units to have balconies overlooking Broad Street.
“Ira expects to have it all down by the end of next month,” Arnold said. “(Then) he has to fill it, get the dirt level, then we will go in and pave and do the lining and the landscaping.”
The Rome Business Improvement District, working through the design committee of the DDA, is providing $20,000 toward the demolition and another $15,000 toward the paving and improvements.
The landscaping will include the relocation of the some of the plants in the Cotton Block Park at the corner of Second Avenue and Broad Street.
Ed Hine, who owns the property at the corner of Second and Broad, has been given an extension of time to make improvements to that lot and building until the shrubs and trees can be relocated later this fall.
The new parking lot will include approximately 40 spaces, most of which will be available free to the public.
“When we closed the lot for the demolition I think we had 14 spaces leased, so those folks have been relocated temporarily and will come back,” Smyth said. “I’m not setting a limit on (how many will be leased), but the rest will be available to the public, for a time period.”
The parking manager said she is trying to develop a plan where downtown businesses actually make a contribution to the DDA to “sponsor” the free parking for their customers as well as customers of all downtown businesses.
In a letter to parents of her Rome Civic Ballet students, owner Meredith Thomas said, “Once construction is over, you will be able to park without fear of getting a ticket or being towed. Do I hear a hallelujah out there?”
The ballet facility is located at 2 East Third Ave., in the former McBrayer Brothers Furniture building.
Smyth and Arnold are still developing the details for managing the lot, including the time period for free public use.
“If it’s open with no time limit, will employees be parking there all day long instead of their already reserved spaces?” Arnold asked.
Alice Herring at Ford, Gittings and Kane Jewelers, 312 Broad St., said the extra parking would really be beneficial to the merchants and restaurants downtown.
“Particularly during the lunch hours. It gets very congested and folks can’t get in and out,” Herring said. “I also think it will open up traffic to the folks on Third Avenue.”