COEUR d'ALENE - The Kootenai County commissioners hope to construct a nearly $8 million, 7-story parking garage on Northwest Boulevard, and the officials are asking the city of Coeur d'Alene and the Lake City Development Corp. to jump on the project to share cost and use.
"This is going to happen fairly soon," said Commissioner Jai Nelson on Monday afternoon, at a meeting between the commissioners and city and LCDC officials. "If we can work out a relationship benefiting several parties, it could maybe happen sooner."
Part of the commissioners' draft facilities master plan, the parking structure is projected to cost $7.8 million.
It would sit on a county-owned dirt lot by the administration building, and provide 518 spaces.
Currently, there are 397 spaces around the administration campus on Government Way.
The garage is imperative to accommodate county employees and customers, said Commissioner Dan Green. He noted that the campus' current lots are overwhelmed during jury selections for the courthouse, as well as peak seasons for the DMV and other county departments.
"We're busting at the seams now," Green said.
But there is also obvious potential for public use, the commissioners noted, hence the opportunity for Coeur d'Alene and LCDC to help fund it and open some spaces to citizens.
The commissioners pointed out there is usually a long search for parking during city events like the holiday lights parade, Art on the Green and for general use of City Park.
"Weekends, evenings is the heaviest use time," Commissioner Todd Tondee predicted for the garage, noting that most employees won't be parking then.
City officials and LCDC board members were open to the idea of hopping on board.
Jim Elder, LCDC board member, said he thought the idea was "wonderful," especially considering how parking floods the Fort Grounds during big events.
Elder estimated that thousands use City Park on summer days. He figured this structure would still be needed on top of the new McEuen Field parking.
"You can never have enough parking," Elder said.
But he cautioned that LCDC does have other project obligations.
"I think urban renewal is certainly interested, though I wouldn't want your expectations to be too high," he told the commissioners.
Troy Tymesen, city finance director, said the project would be enticing if the garage was revenue generating, a detail the commissioners had yet to determine.
Tymesen said the city would conduct a feasibility study before committing.
Other details were also batted around, like if a sky bridge would be necessary to help folks cross Northwest Boulevard.
The county also has an alternative plan to add another level to the administration building's south parking lot, providing an additional 33 spaces for $1.3 million.
The commissioners broached the subject with the other officials on Monday because the county is now half finished with its facilities master plan, aimed at consolidating county structures and operations on the Government Way campus.
The still-preliminary plan could include the construction of new county buildings, the commissioners said, so additional parking would have to come first.
The new facilities being considered include a $20 million justice center behind the administration building. The structure would give the county additional courtrooms, and also take on the juvenile court operations now conducted at the old federal courthouse on Fourth Street.
"It's a very costly building," Nelson said of the federal courthouse, adding that a study is being conducted of its operations pricetag.
The commissioners might also add on to both sides of the administrative building, projected to cost more than $2 million, and construct a new $1 million Building and Grounds structure.
The timing of the parking garage and any following buildings, Nelson said, depends on the options the city and LCDC provide.
"It's a very visionary plan," Nelson said. "I'm determined to implement it."