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Council to hear parking study, imperial site bids, consider economic deal with county and GUC

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Some downtown merchants said a lack of free parking downtown makes it difficult for them to compete with businesses and restaurants that have free parking.

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Greenville City Council will meet this week to discuss a joint economic development plan, a parking study of the downtown area, and the bids for the development of the Imperial Tobacco Warehouse Site. 

In a short meeting on Monday, the council is set to vote on a request by the Pitt County Committee of 11 to contract a consultant to develop a strategic plan for a broad-based economic development initiative for the county, in addition to an assessment of community and business support for the initiative. 

The proposal is for The Committee of 100, The City of Greenville, Pitt County, and the Greenville Utilities Commission split the cost of the study, with each participating entity contributing $10,000. The Committee of 100 has agreed to spend $20,000 for their share of the cost. 

If approved by the city council, the funds will be appropriated from the city’s Contingency Fund. 

On Thursday, the council will be receiving updates from Walker Planning and Consulting, a firm hired to study the parking needs and demands in the downtown area, as well as provide recommendations to improve. 

The firm presented a preliminary report of its findings at a public update meeting at Sheppard Memorial Library on Nov. 30. Among the recommendations made by the firm were the reduction of leased spaces throughout downtown, higher parking fines, and the creation of a ‘parking champion’ position, to be the authority on parking-related issues.  

According to the data presented, downtown Greenville has 4,701 parking spaces. Of these spaces, 2,100 are private and 2,601 are public spaces owned by the city and East Carolina University. ECU owns 1,307 and the city owns 1,294 — 637 of which are off-street, and 657 are on-street spaces. More than 95 percent of downtown workers, visitors, and students arrive by automobile. Of the 637 off-street parking spots in the area, 248 are leased, something Connor called “an unusually high volume” of promised spaces.

Also on Thursday night, the council will recieve an update on the development bids for the Imperial Warehouse Tobacco Site. 

Greenville officials first sought bids from firms to carry out conceptual designs for the 86-acre site after a City Council vote in June. The bids were opened on Sept. 15, but have not been discussed at council since.  

The three proposals for the development of the site come from The Keith Corporation out of Charlotte, Armada Hoffler of Virginia Beach, and Hallmark Communities and Seacoast Communities out of Mount Pleasant, SC. The bid from The Keith Corporation is for a partial portion of the total site, where they hope to construct a large office building. The other two bids are for the complete development of the site.

Bids from Armada Hoffler and Hallmark both propose a large amount of housing development mixed with commercial space and a large office building.

Imperial Tobacco operated a processing plant at the site from the 1900s. The property was optioned by a developer in the mid-2000s but it burned down in 2008.

The city purchased the site for $1 in 2012 and used a $400,000 federal Brownfield grant to clean up toxins left from the fire and plant operations. After the cleanup was complete, the city council voted to purchase the site in 2016 for $1.04 million.

In September 2016, the council contracted with Development Finance Initiative of Chapel Hill to facilitate development of the site.

DFI presented multiple options to the council at the June meeting. The council approved a concept that reinvests revenues from the development of some sections of the property to ensure affordable housing is included elsewhere on the land.

The site is expected to attract approximately $68 million in private investment if the plan comes to fruition, officials said in June.

It is not clear whether the council will vote on which bid to accept, and the agenda does not suggest a recomendation.

Also on the council agenda for the week:

• On Monday the council will vote to officailly add pre-meetings to their monday city council meetings, an item that was unanimously supported by council at the annual planning session. 
• On Thursday the council will hear a report for updating the provision allowing for alcohol consumption and sales at the Town Commons, including allowing private use — such as weddings, and hiring a private entertainment company to use the park. 

Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth

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