Mayor Jim Gray today announced that the city will demolish the upper deck of the unsafe Phoenix Parking Garage and establish a surface parking lot at the site.
“Four structural engineering firms have examined this garage and all have come to the same conclusion: leaving the garage open is dangerous for anyone who parks there or uses the sidewalks surrounding it,” Gray said. “I have to confess, it's a lot better announcing a new structure going up, than taking one down. But sometimes taking one down is the best business decision, especially when it's based fully on sound financial and safety reasons.”
Repair costs are estimated at $500,000 and would add only 2-3 years to the life of the garage. Replacement costs are estimated at $1,010,000.
The garage was temporarily closed May 8 after a 28-foot long concrete panel fell from the upper deck onto the Vine Street sidewalk below. It reopened May 11 after an evaluation by a structural engineer found the problem was isolated to one steel beam.
However, on Oct. 4 new engineering reports indicated that additional evaluation of the garage was needed. The garage has remained closed since then, and the engineering evaluations have continued. “There has been a growing consensus among the engineers that it should be torn down,” Gray said. “That’s what we’re doing.”
The problems with garage involve not only the way the upper deck concrete panels are attached, but also the deck concrete, which is hollow. “This 30-year-old garage does not meet today’s construction standards,” said Gray, who worked for almost 40 years in the construction business.
The 150-space garage, located on Vine Street, has been used by employees of the City, the Property Valuation Administrator and local businesses, plus citizens. A total of 55 spaces will be lost by removing the upper deck. City workers will move to the Transit Center Garage, the Annex Garage or the Courthouse garage.
Demolition is expected to begin in December and take approximately three months to complete. City officials estimate the cost of the demolition between $150,000 and $280,000.
Gray said the city has asked the Lexington Parking Authority to evaluate the condition of all six city-owned parking garages, including the Phoenix Garage. “We are considering ways to improve managing these garages, but first we need a clear picture of their condition,” the Mayor said. The review began at the end of September and is expected to take 10 weeks.