Loveland City Manager David Kennedy gives a complete update on the proposed Loveland Parking Garage

By Chuck Gibson

 LOVELAND, OH (July 12, 2020) – Plans for a proposed two-level parking garage to add 280 parking spaces and relieve traffic congestion in Downtown Loveland continue moving forward.

Overhead rendering of proposed Loveland Parking Garage (Provided)

When COVID hit, the Loveland Parking Garage was put on hold according to Dave Kennedy, Loveland City Manager.

“Initially, when we were shutting down projects when the COVID hit, I put the design of a parking facility on hold,” said Kennedy.

 Needs for additional parking in the city did not disappear. Just about anyone you ask will tell you parking is tough in downtown Loveland. Parking is especially tough during events, Farmer’s Market Tuesday’s, and generally when the weather is nice and people flock to the center of Historic Downtown Loveland for outdoor fun. Somehow though, city plans to build a parking garage still managed to meet with some opposition.

“In the beginning, we did, but there some of the early numbers were higher,” Kennedy explained in reference to early cost estimates. “We just had a preliminary cost estimate that was pretty high. We never even got anything formal.”  

A couple things happened since then motivating Kennedy and city leaders to begin formal planning for a parking facility. Two “pretty viable” funding sources came up for application. To apply for those funding sources, Loveland needed to have a formal true engineers cost estimate for the project. Kennedy brought everybody back to work in engineering to get everything going to have the document necessary for the grant application. It is a process with which Kennedy is quite familiar and experienced.

“I’ve been applying for grants since 1981,” he said. “You don’t go anywhere without a cost estimate.”

A simple guess won’t do. Engineers came up with a formal estimate for the project. Kennedy believes it is a good estimate.

“It’s a good estimate. It’s $5.8 million,” said Kennedy. “That’s a good estimate considering you have a lot of earth to move up there, and you’re cutting through that hill to put in this access.”

Desman Design Management Formal Cost Estimate for proposed Loveland Parking Garage (Provided)

The hill and the “up there” Kennedy refers to is the land behind Loveland City Hall and beyond “The Works Restaurant” between First Street and S.R. 48. The access is an entrance to the garage off S.R. 48. Access off 48 is a key element for relief of traffic congestion.  Garage access from S.R. 48 will allow anyone coming from Warren or Clermont County to enter directly into the parking garage without becoming part of the thoroughfare of W. Loveland Avenue when Downtown Loveland is their destination. 

With estimate in hand, the city was prepared to apply for funding grants. The first is the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC ) grant worth $250,000 which originates at the state level, but comes through Clermont County. Uniquely, the Loveland Parking Garage project is eligible for the grant.

Full Area Plan for Loveland Parking Garage prepared byh Desman Design Management (Provided)

Ground Level plan for Loveland Parking Garage prepared by DDM (Provided)

“We’re eligible for that ARC funding and we applied for it,” Kennedy said. “It is not a big-big chunk, but it is job-related and it helps.”

Because of his previous experience in New Richmond, Kennedy knows receiving the grant connects directly to creation of new jobs and job retention. Response from Loveland business owners was very supportive when he reached out. Not only did they express it verbally, but they put it in writing to support the grant application. Business owners expressed firm belief the project is critical to their future success.  Both Kennedy and Loveland Mayor Kathy Bailey cited numerous examples of comments from owners of Tano’s and even the Loveland Bike Rental about lost customers due to issues with parking.

 “What we would hear from businesses and even others, potential customers would tell them I just don’t even come down there anymore,” explained Bailey. “I’ve actually met with a State Senator, to get some help with funding, who said the same thing: ‘I don’t come there, I can’t find a parking place. I just don’t even bother.’ That’s obviously the last thing we want to hear.”

2nd Level (Roof) Plan prepared by DDM(Provided)

Existing Grading Plan by DDM (Provided) 

Bailey, City Council, and City Manager Dave Kennedy recognize the need and cite that as the starting point to push for the garage solution. The design, development, and construction of the Loveland Parking Garage is intended to relieve parking and traffic stress for Downtown Loveland.

“Our city is the hot spot at the moment,” Bailey said. “We’d like to keep that going. Certainly businesses downtown are a big piece of the economic engine that is driving our city. We don’t want to lose potential customers because, not just perceived, but the reality of it is it is tough to find a parking place.”

Bailey says the need began there and has not diminished. City leaders are mindful of finances. Especially wary of the pandemic circumstances for everyone, the city has cut back and put some projects on hold. The parking garage project is not one they plan to hold back.

 “There’s a huge need for it and we’re moving forward,” said Bailey, “Maybe a little slower than what many of us would have hoped. We probably would have had construction underway if it had not been for recent events. Nonetheless, we are still moving forward as quickly as we can.”

Kathy Bailey, Mayor, Loveland, Ohio (Provided) 

The Loveland Parking Garage project is receiving a lot of support. Kennedy says they have received letters of support from organizations like Little Miami Inc. who recognize the parking benefit for their educational programs while not harming The Scenic Little Miami River. Support has come from Friends of the Little Miami State Park who maintain The Scenic Little Miami River Trail (aka: Loveland Bike Trail) though it is owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).  Along with support from the Little Miami River Chamber Alliance (LMRCA –CeeCee Collins) and the Loveland Stage Company founder Pat Furterer, lend strength to the argument for construction of a parking facility. Comments about downtown parking and traffic as a key issue from the community go back to downtown planning.

 “I think what gets lost in the number of parking spaces is this whole new access point we’re getting in off 48,” Kennedy said. “If I’m coming from Warren or Clermont County bound for downtown Loveland, that’s how I’m going. I’m not messing with everything else, I’m going in there.”

David Kennedy, Loveland City Manager (Provided)

The current proposed garage also offers the opportunity to come in off Harrison and go directly to the second level/rooftop parking of the garage. To be clear though, the access off S.R. 48 is for parking, not for thru-traffic. Outbound traffic will still flow through downtown Loveland on W. Loveland Avenue. Within the perimeter of the garage, First Street will be widened and offer direct access to ground level parking inside the garage. Kennedy’s vision extends beyond successful completion of the garage to a reconfiguration of current parking to create more ways into the parking area.

First Street passes directly in front of the home of Tim O’Grady and Kay Bolin as well as others. They were concerned the current one-way street might be changed to two-way and increase traffic volume. Kennedy and Mayor Bailey both confirmed First Street will remain one-way. There has also been some confusion regarding possible separate entry and exit points for the garage, but all access points will be entry and exit. People also want to know what it will look like and how it will fit in.

Loveland Mayor Kathy Bailey with Kay Bolin & Tim O’Grady during a ceremony in June (FILE)

“I trust that Dave and the current council will make it look as nice and natural as they can,” said Bolin. “I don’t really worry about that.”

Kennedy and the council are working closely with Desman Design Management and the Loveland Historic Preservation Design Review board to create the best aesthetic design possible. Public input is part of the process with a public hearing planned as well. In the end, even Kennedy admits, it is a parking garage, but they are taking a creative approach for the most visible façade to be uniquely Loveland in appearance. Their primary focus now is getting grants for funding to keep the final price tag as low as possible.

“The grant I’m working on now is an EDA grant, Economic Development Administration grant,” Kennedy said. “That grant is a big grant. It’s infused by the CARES Act. It’s all about job retention and new jobs so we’re able to use some of the narrative from the ARC grant, but they will do 50-percent. That’s a $2.8 million dollar request that will be submitted the day after the Council Meeting July 14.”

Kennedy says he has been working on it steadily for nearly a month. He praises the efforts and passion of Mayor Bailey working for this project. He’s been viewing and reviewing all the information on the grant to be sure they have every question answered correctly. This is a federal grant, not the usual state funding grants cities usually receive.

“I apply for a lot of grants. Most of them are state grants,” said Kennedy. “When you are applying federal, you are dealing with some serious competition. You are going up against the ODOT’s of the world and the state people, but it is really simple, $5.8 million dollars is not cheap. It is significant and we are going to have to put money into it.”

Kennedy says his job, and the job of his staff, is to identify the funding they can to get that final cost number as low as it can be. Whatever that number is, the balance will come from a General Obligation (GO) Bond. He emphasized the importance of “shaking every tree,” turning over every stone to get that cost as low as it could be for the project. That’s where he has seen Mayor Bailey at her best working for the community.

 “We really saw Kathy in her moment, working hard, using her time to call these State Senators and State Reps, saying this is a big project,” Kennedy said. “She asked them to come down to show them what are vision is.”

Overview rendering of the proposed Loveland Parking Garage showing S.R. 48 access (Provided)

Their vision is not limited. Kennedy and Bailey have talked with other cities and the people in charge of Cincinnati Bengals parking to learn and plan for the technology that will be available at the time the garage construction is completed. Yes, it will be paid parking, but they plan for technology to allow City of Loveland residents to pay a discounted annual sticker fee online. They envision technology which would allow area businesses/ restaurants to “comp” guests parking.

Plans will be presented to the Loveland City Council at their planned council meeting this Tuesday, July 14. Kennedy expects a public hearing at the August meeting of council. If all is approved, they can break ground and begin construction by February 2021, maybe even sooner.

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