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Mayor's Office

2006 Media Releases

February 13, 2006
For More Information Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, Citizen Information Center, 441-7831
Dallas McGee, Urban Development, 441-7857
Joel Pedersen, City Attorney’s Office, 441-7232

City to pursue parking garage and high-rise building

Mayor Coleen J. Seng announced today the City’s plans to build a new parking garage in downtown Lincoln and to seek a private developer to build a high-rise building above the garage. In making her announcement, Seng invited private developers to “dream big and look to the skies” by building an ambitious tower at this location. The last high-rise tower built in Lincoln was constructed more than 20 years ago.

“I am proposing a new creative way to expand the tax base, encourage investment and add parking,” Mayor Seng said. “I will keep trying new ideas to stimulate investment, and I believe the private sector will respond. This project will meet a public need and create an opportunity for private investment at the same time.”

The City will build a new parking garage at 1311 “Q” Street where the Starship 9 movie theater is now located in order to meet a growing demand in the central business district. The City will purchase the Starship 9 from Center Associates LLC. The project could add from 400 to 600 parking stalls depending on the size of the tower above the garage. The Downtown Master Plan identified this block as the appropriate location for a parking garage. Seng said the location is ideally situated to serve the downtown and also be close enough to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to serve campus visitors. Because the block is outside the view corridor for the State Capitol, the allowable building height on the block is 275 feet, which could accommodate a structure of up to 25 floors.

“The City will advertise for one or more private developers to build an innovative project to provide street level retail and a building above the parking garage,” Seng said. “There is opportunity to create something better and expand the property tax base by building above a parking garage. This will attract more private investment to downtown. It is important we move ahead with a project that could change the City’s skyline.” The high-rise building could be an office tower, hotel, residential housing or a combination of those uses.

“Building up makes the best use of downtown land,” said Seng. “The parking garage will serve as the catalyst to stimulate more economic development and potentially more jobs.”

The Downtown Master Plan recommends the garage site include the northeast end of the block along 14th Street. The City has begun negotiating with the owners of Taste of China and Wasabi restaurants to explore this possibility. The additional space could add more parking and provide more garage design flexibility.

“I would like the City to reach an amicable agreement with these owners that will allow the restaurants to relocate successfully,” Seng said. “I have directed the Urban Development Department to work closely with both of them to achieve a positive result, as we did with Center Associates.”

The City also will purchase the vacant Douglas 3 Theater at 1300 “P” Street. The Douglas 3 will be cleared to prepare the site for a future civic square as called for by the Downtown Master Plan the City Council approved in October.

The City does not have immediate plans to develop the future civic square. Mayor Seng said it was important to secure the site while the Douglas 3 was vacant. Seng said planning for the future civic square would begin after a developer is selected for the high rise. The square would be constructed only after financing is available.

“A civic square at 13th and “P” streets will be a valuable attraction for community events and a centerpiece for the downtown,” Seng said. “It will be an inviting focal point that will generate further reinvestment. I look forward to the day when it becomes a hub of activity in Lincoln’s thriving downtown.” The City has planned to build a new parking garage in this part of the downtown for several years. Site selection was integrated into the Downtown Master Plan.

The Mayor will ask the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission and the Lincoln City Council to amend the Lincoln Center Redevelopment Plan to reflect these projects. If the City Council amends the redevelopment plan later this year, the City will request proposals to build the tower above the garage. The City will take ownership of the Starship 9 and the Douglas 3 in June.

The $2.1 million purchase of the Starship 9 will use available parking enterprise funds that are designated for a new garage. Tax-increment financing funds, possibly in combination with a portion of the City’s advance land acquisition funds, will be used to purchase the Douglas 3 for $1.1 million.

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