Sumter city government to pay for downtown hotel parking garage

parking-lotSumter City Council has approved a bond for up to $4.5 million to pay for the construction a new multi-level parking garage to support a proposed downtown hotel.

The parking garage, which will be constructed at the southeastern corner of W. Hampton Avenue and N. Sumter Street, will replace the current single-level, 160-space, public parking lot currently at the location, and is expected to primarily support the proposed 93-room Hyatt hotel, which previous government documents have said has a proposed investment of $12 million.  While the parking garage is currently expected to remain municipal property, it is also being constructed with “consistent design standards” to match the proposed hotel.

As part of the municipal efforts to build the parking garage, Sumter City Council also determined the facility should not have to follow the standard regulations for government procurement.

lot2This actually occurred back in March, when city council passed a resolution allowing the project to be exempt from the procurement process and awarded the contract for the parking garage to Thompson Turner Construction, the same company said to be constructing the proposed hotel.   According to the resolution approved by city council, council members believe doing so will lower costs and improve safety during construction.  The March resolution also said city council expects the elevated parking structure and the hotel will be constructed at the same time.

And while this is the largest investment city government has made in support of the private venture that has been under discussion for years, this is not the first.

At their previous meeting earlier this month, city council also approved transferring the publicly-owned property on Main Street across from the Sumter Opera House, currently used by the city for various community events including the 4th Friday concert series, to Sumter Hotel Venture LLC for the Main Street hotel.  Awarding the property to the company, city council said “would serve a public purpose by fostering economic development, encouraging job creation, and supporting additional investment in the local community.”

Even before the property was made available to the hotel venture, however, the land had to be cleared of two businesses operating downtown.  That occurred back in 2012, when Sumter City Council issued another bond for $550,000 to purchase and demolish the buildings previously located on Main Street, which were housing Maxway and a CitiTrends stores. Those two businesses were employing approximately 30 people at the time the buildings were purchased by the city.

Because of their location, the demolition of those buildings had to be approved by the city’s Historic Preservation Design Review Committee. As part of his argument for justifying demolishing the buildings, city manager Deron McCormick argued to the committee that removing the buildings would give downtown visitors a better view of the Sumter Opera House.

To pay for the parking lot, the bond issued by city council at their last council meeting, is scheduled to be paid back between 2017 and 2029, at an interest rate of 2.04 percent.

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