Revisions may be in store for transit center and garage

Revision may be in store for engineers working on a parking garage and transit facility in downtown Williamsport.

City Council Thursday approved L. Robert Kimball and Associates, of Ebensburg, to proceed with the final design phase of the proposed $9 million Trade and Transit Centre II at West Third and Laurel streets, but requested the chance for revising final design elements.

A drawing shows a futuristic-looking facility, laced with traditional features meant to save money over construction with all-brick and concrete, but some on council suggested it may not be the right fit for that area of the central business district.

That had William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director and general manager of River Valley Transit, taken aback.

“Why not have a building that has attractive features and costs less to construct with elements such as panels out front replacing brick, which cuts down on costs and isn’t stale?” Nichols asked the Sun-Gazette during a break he took in the meeting.

Council didn’t argue about the facility’s design and the effort Nichols and the design team placed into creating the conceptual drawing.

“I mean, it is an attractive building,” said Councilman Jonathan Williamson, who noted how before every step of design in the downtown has had a specific purpose.

“We have thought carefully as everybody enters into neighborhoods in the central business district to make sure buildings fit in,” Williamson said. “I don’t know if it’s the right design for that location.”

Williamson harkened back to what council in 1966 may have envisioned when they approved the design of the Mid-Town garage, an aged and decaying facility that is falling apart in places. “Now, he said, “that looks dated; classic designs are often timeless – modern design can be dated.”

The back and forth about design elements continued with Nichols claiming the administration’s intention is a building that gets “noticed.”

“Why not make the downtown look vibrant and exciting.” Nichols said. “It is a blend of the old and new.”

Indeed, the drawing shows panels that can be illuminated with light fixtures. It has curbed wood beams atop, a reference to the tradition of the city as lumber capital of the world in the early late 19th and early 20th centuries, according to Nichols.

Councilwoman Liz Miele agreed with Williamson, while also expressing how much she appreciated the work by the engineer and Nichols to reach this point.

Miele said she approved of changes in traffic flow design that makes it safer and easier for buses to enter the bays from William Street.

But Miele had concern about the leaseable space for retail or restaurant use when the rest of the downtown had “quite a bit” of available space for those purposes.

The facility would provide space for the offices of the Williamsport Parking Authority and a space for a conference room to replace the Sechler Room in the second floor of City Hall.

The garage is to be linked to a proposed Destination 2014 project, the reuse of the YMCA building and a civic arena about two blocks to the west. A series of paths, which are called sports paths, would give access to pedestrians to other areas of the business district and the destination.

Another important aspect is will serve as a bus depot for River Valley Transit buses, which soon are going to be transitioning over to run on compressed natural gas.

Afterward, Michael Snyder, an engineer with L.R. Kimball, said he would be glad to continue revision with council as it looks at any proposed alterations.