Return home

Liberty-James Parking Garage reaches critical point

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 5/14/22

ROME — It’s to the crucial point where something must be done — so is the status of the city’s Liberty-James Parking Garage, engineers have told city officials. Architect Steven Kushner, of …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Liberty-James Parking Garage reaches critical point


ROME — It’s to the crucial point where something must be done — so is the status of the city’s Liberty-James Parking Garage, engineers have told city officials.

Architect Steven Kushner, of Bergmann Architects, Engineers, Planners of Rochester, outlined four options for the city to take when it comes to the future of the downtown garage, built during the city’s urban renewal efforts in the 1970s and is now showing significant wear from its 50-plus years of existence.

But whatever plan they choose, Kushner told city officials and members of the Common Council on Wednesday that they must act soon, considering the dangerous and deteriorated conditions of the garage.

Among Kushner’s development options: Rehabilitation, Replacement, Removal or a Partial Build.

“We’ve worked on this for a number of years — it’s been a process to see where you are in the course of repairs,” said Kushner. “If you don’t decide to repair, tear down or do something else, we can’t take on the liability knowing what we know about the garage. Over time, it doesn’t get better or repair itself. You have to do something with the point that we’re at today.”

Wednesday’s presentation began with a walk-through of the Liberty James Garage attended my council members, Deputy Director of Community and Economic Development Matthew Andrews, city planners, Chief Codes Enforcement Officer Mark Domenico and City Engineer II Joseph Guiliano.

Professional Engineer Christopher N. Latreille guided the walking tour, pointing out rusted re-bar coming through the garage’s deck and the deterioration of supporting concrete by water and salt corrosion. He said in some areas, the concrete is to the point of almost breaking apart and falling.

As far as the parking surface, a “membrane” was applied around 2006, but it had “not been maintained lately,” said Guiliano, stating that in recent years only “Band-aids” had been applied to problem areas.

Latreille warned city officials that Rome would need to invest in an “aggressive” repair program if council members decided to keep and repair the current garage, but strongly recommended demolition.

“There’s no immediate threat of collapse, but this garage needs so much work you’re at the point where you need a new garage,” said Latreille. “It’s either” a costly “aggressive repair program or tear this down, that’s where we’re at right now.”

During the presentation in Council Chambers following the walk-through, Kushner said some structural issues with the garage “may not be obvious, but we’re at the point where the next step may be falling concrete, which we want to avoid. The electrical engineers said all the electrical components should be replaced, period,” adding that Bergmann started its assessment of the garage following the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative submission back in 2018.

Kushner said some of the garage exits had exposed wires coming out of cable boxes in the stairway areas that had to be shut off. He said the plumbing was coming through (the walls) and the conduit was rusted to the point where you could see the wires inside.

“The original DRI expectation, we thought it would need little structure repairs and lighting, but we can’t even address those,” said Kushner. “Previous repairs have been ineffective, which is a major concern.”

The architect said if the city was leaning toward rehabilitation of the garage, officials would need to consider if the cost was worth the anticipated life of the structure. If repaired, Kushner said it would only extend the life of the garage by 10-15 years.

“We could remove the garage and put the same thing in its place, but is there a need for it?,” he asked. “There hasn’t been a time when the garage has seen cars at every level. The size doesn’t seem to be needed. The quickest (and less costly) option would be to take down the garage and replace it with a surface lot to meet the parking demands, and then you could develop the site in the future” if demand warranted it.

Instead of just replacing the garage with a surface lot, Kushner said the city could also opt to build a smaller one-level garage on a smaller footprint.

And while repairs would only get 10-15 more years of life out of the current garage, Kushner further described that as the “high risk solution.”

“Once we start opening things up, are there more problems within the concrete that we don’t know about?,” asked Kushner. “That would be something that would need to be addressed at that time if things are found beyond what we anticipate.”

Kushner also warned that since coming up with original estimates for work in 2019, construction, materials and construction management have dramatically increased, and continues to escalate, since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From 2019 to 2022, you’ve had three years of escalation of 2 1/2 to 3% inflation each year, but now everything is even higher in the construction industry, and it’s hard to get materials,” he said.

Repair and Rehabilitation

Kushner presented a break-down of the projected costs for each option:

• Option 1 — Repair and Rehabilitation of the garage for continued service in a single-construction phase: $7.4 million;

• Option 2 — Repair and Rehabilitation as a multi-phase construction project over five years: $8.1 million;

• Option 3 — Partial Demolition and Repair: $8.4 million-plus.

Replacement In Kind

Includes long-term 50-year solution; would allow for reconsideration of office space for state offices in a less vulnerable location; code updates and facade improvements. However, Bergmann representatives said the option would require on-going maintenance, and there is no demand for a garage of that size at this time, with much of the garage going unused.

• Estimated cost: $23,600,000

Replace with Surface Lot

Long-term solution that meets anticipated parking demand (135 spaces and green space); requires state offices to relocate; can consider covered parking areas with photovoltaic panels over the bus and RV parking area; requires less maintenance; lowest-risk solution — no unknowns left to cause future damage and no vertical structures to maintain; preferred concept development.

• Estimated cost: $3 million

Replace with Smaller Garage

Long-term solution that accommodates future growth; elevated deck likely has a 50-year useful life (with 200 spaces); allows for a more open site; requires state offices to relocate; requires on-going maintenance; moderate-risk solution — high initial cost with uncertain parking demand; and high cost/parking space option.

Total estimated cost: $11 million

Moving forward

Councilors asked if results of a parking study were available so they had knowledge for the demand of spaces needed downtown before a final decision was made. Deputy Director of Community and Economic Development Andrews said his office was waiting on the last round of updates on the study, but doesn’t expect the projected numbers to dramatically change. With about 550 striped spaces in the garage currently, Andrews said in 2019 use of the garage was at about 28% and “utilization of the garage went down (from that) this year.”

Andrews added that the city has around $1.28 million in DRI funding for the garage right now, which “puts us in the ballpark for demolition” costs. City officials said Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo is also interested in an American Rescue Plan Act funding commitment toward the garage project.

Andrews said once a decision is made on which option to take and the project is approved, the city has until the end of 2024 to spend the allotted DRI funding, and ARPA funding must be committed by 2024 and used by 2026.

Council President Stephanie Viscelli said she’d prefer the council see the traffic study before it decides “yay” or “nay” on either option. She said once the traffic study was available, the council could act quickly. City officials said they would work to get the numbers to councilors as soon as possible so that legislation for the parking garage could appear on the May 25 City Council agenda.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here