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Bellingham parking garage gets upgrades, new name

The Parkade, in downtown Bellingham, Friday, March 4, 2016, has been renamed the Commercial Street Parking Garage. The city will pay for improved lighting, vehicle charging stations, a paint job and other improvements to make the garage more inviting to drivers. The city also will install signs around downtown making it easier for visitors to find the garage.
The Parkade, in downtown Bellingham, Friday, March 4, 2016, has been renamed the Commercial Street Parking Garage. The city will pay for improved lighting, vehicle charging stations, a paint job and other improvements to make the garage more inviting to drivers. The city also will install signs around downtown making it easier for visitors to find the garage. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

The Commercial Street Parking Garage formerly known as the Parkade soon will be easier for visitors to find and friendlier to electric vehicles.

In addition to its new name, the structure will get new paint, better lighting, four electric vehicle charging stations just inside the entrance and other upgrades starting Monday, March 7.

“The biggest complaint people had was nobody knew what a ‘parkade’ was when they came to town,” said Clark Williams, the city’s superintendent of traffic. “The big new entrance sign will say ‘Commercial Street Parking Garage.’”

The structure itself will get some new signs, and new universal “P” parking signs will point visitors toward the garages on Commercial Street and Railroad Avenue as signs are upgraded around downtown.

City Council awarded the $451,485 project to HB Hansen of Lynden, which plans to work on the structure through June.

As part of the work, the contractor will remove fire doors on the two stairwells and cut into the walls to install windows and make the stairs a little more attractive for people to use and “make it less attractive for people to sleep in there or hang out,” Public Works Director Ted Carlson told the council on Jan. 25.

Also, old handrails will be replaced with galvanized steel railings as part of Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades, Williams said.

Parking in the Commercial Street Parking Garage is free on all five levels after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

During the Jan. 25 meeting, Council Member Dan Hammill asked about other ADA issues. Specifically, he asked how someone whose young child has a disability would be able to pay if they need to park on the first level, while pay stations are all located on the level below, which is not accessible by the garage’s elevator.

Williams responded that he hadn’t heard complaints about that, but it could be addressed.

In an interview, Williams clarified that no changes had been made to the project, but all people who have a disabled placard through the state are able to park for free in any space, whether it is marked with a wheelchair symbol or not.

For other people, say a parent with a child in a stroller, if they are unable to reach the pay stations on the lowest level, they can pay at any city pay station (as long as they remember their parking space number by the time they get there), Williams said.

Improvements to encourage use

The improvements are part of an attempt to get more people to use the parking garage.

A new 24-hour security camera system was installed in November 2015, and the city plans an eventual second phase of upgrades to the exterior of the structure and attached commercial storefronts, in addition to maintenance work.

Though many of the external upgrades will be saved for later work, the city is having an architect see if a “living wall” on one side of the structure would be feasible to roll into the current project, Williams said.

A living or green wall could replace some less-than-easy-on-the-eye concrete panels on the outside of the structure with vertical planters. The idea was proposed as part of the 2015 Kapow design competition, which asked people to propose ways to liven up downtown.

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the first level of the roughly 500-space garage is open to public parking for 75 cents per hour. After 5 p.m. and on weekends, parking is free and open to the public on all five levels.

The four electric vehicle charging stations will follow the city’s current model: The electricity is free, while users pay the hourly rate to park their car there while it charges, Williams said.

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil

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