Parking needs, downtown project linked

Two strategists say pursuit by the city administration of a downtown parking garage is linked to whether millions of dollars in funding is received from Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration.

“Parking is clearly viewed by state-level decision-makers as being an essential element of Destination 2014’s viability and therefore its attractiveness in terms of funding,” Jason Fitzgerald, senior vice president of Penn Strategies, said at the City Council meeting Thursday night.

Destination 2014 is Mayor Gabriel J. Campana’s vision and plan to see the city reuse non-taxable properties in the YMCA block for commercial and taxable purposes.

The Liberty Group, a Montoursville-area development company, has purchased the YMCA building properties and plans to convert the former Pickelner Arena into an indoor arena, connected by an athletic complex. Dan Klingerman, CEO and president of The Liberty Group, has said he also wants to convert the existing YMCA building into high-end apartments and a conference center.

Most recently, downtown merchants suggested other plans than building the deck, such as leaving the space at West Third and Laurel streets alone or converting it into a flat lot.

However, Campana said the city will continue to pursue building Trade and Transit Centre II, a 246-space garage with lower-level space for leasing for commercial purposes, as part of the project. The garage is estimated to cost $9 million.

Pathways would link the garage to Destination 2014, a town square green, a restaurant and possible additional parking options.

Fitzgerald and Laura Templeton, of Rettew, whose consulting firm is working jointly with Fitzgerald’s, asked council and the administration to consider the future of the garage as important in getting all or part of a $10 million request of the state Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program grant.

To get there, the city submitted a business plan to the state in April that remains under consideration by Corbett’s administration, according to the consultants.

Should the business plan be accepted, the city will receive a letter stating the amount of the award, a notice that may arrive later this month or next, according to Fitzgerald.

Because it is a reimbursement program, the strategists suggested the city may want to pursue a short-term loan to cover expenses at the outset.

Councilman Randall J. Alllison asked how long until the reimbursement occurs, and the answer a timetable stretching into next year.

Fitzgerald said to remain hopeful but realistic about what to expect.

“It’s a highly competitive process,” he said.

There are $1 billion worth of requests and $120 million is available, he said.