A private developer is bringing in a parking-garage consultant and builder to work with the city of Beaufort and residents on a plan to build a garage.
Beaufort Inn, a subsidiary of the development company 303 Associates, has an agreement with Structured Parking Solutions LLC to explore possibilities with the city, according to Greg Darden, the company's director of business development.
"We have a piece of property and we are going to begin meeting with people, and we want to get with the community and find out what they think," he said.
Beaufort Inn bought most of the block of downtown Beaufort bounded by Port Republic, Charles, Craven and West streets in December for $3.4 million. That includes a parking lot the city's Civic Master Plan identifies as ideal for a parking garage.
Dick Stewart, principal of 303 Associates, has said he does not intend to build a parking lot.
However, he has signed a letter of intent with SPS that includes an option for the company to buy part of the lot if a parking garage appears to be financially viable and moves forward, Stewart said.
City Council and the Redevelopment Commission have an agreement with developers Steve Navarro and Jim Chaffin to come up with a development plan for the Beaufort Downtown Marina parking lot. The agreement requires developers to help find parking to replace spaces displaced by any development there.
Attempts Friday to reach Navarro and Chaffin were unsuccessful.
Darden said they are not part of his project with Stewart, although he expects they will eventually talk.
City manager Scott Dadson said staff also plans to meet with Darden. The city wants to hear his pitch and might -- or might not -- get involved in building a parking garage.
"We'll have a conversation with him about how we may or may not have a role in this, if we're even interested," Dadson said.
Mayor Billy Keyserling called it "almost a miracle," when told Friday that SPS is working with Stewart. The parking company would have to follow the usual permitting and approval process before a garage could be built, however, the mayor added.
It's not clear how a garage would be paid for.
Darden said SPS has an "appetite for developing structures fully on our own," but Redevelopment Commission chairman Jon Verity said he anticipates other funding could come into play, perhaps from the marina developers and the city.
"If we're going to have parking spots in the garage then we're probably going to need to be responsible for part of the financing," he said.
Stewart said he is not considering paying for a parking structure at this time, but it might be possible for someone to convince him to chip in.
Verity said he estimates a garage would need to provide 400 to 600 spaces to be practical.
Darden will be in town to meet with community officials, developers, organization leaders and residents on Thursday. Main Street Beaufort, USA, has arranged for a public meeting 10:15 a.m. at the Port Republic Square parking lot to gather feedback and input.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.