While the city of Beaufort waits to see whether a potential penny sales tax achieves its parking dreams, a private-sector developer is moving forward with plans of his own.
Dick Stewart has plans for a four-floor, three-story garage in downtown Beaufort to serve his current businesses in the area and accommodate more hotels planned on the block.
Plans call for almost 500 spaces in a structure bordered by Port Republic, Charles and Craven streets. The garage would be adjacent to Stewart’s Tabby Place, an event space renovated and opened last year, and across West Street from Beaufort Inn.
Additionally, Stewart passed out renderings of a 75-room hotel envisioned for nearby Scott and Port Republic streets, and another 12-room inn on Craven Street is moving toward possible winter construction.
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“At some point, we’ve got to have more parking,” Stewart said. “Which is why we’re here.”
The spaces would serve employees and hotel and event space guests. Anything left over could be offered to the general public, but Stewart said the need wasn’t driving the project.
“As it relates to public parking, I’m not here to solve that problem,” Stewart said during a meeting to introduce the plan Friday afternoon.
The city has studied its downtown parking issue for decades, most recently a volunteer parking committee that met for months last year. That panel reiterated the need for a parking garage.
The obvious hurdle has been the gargantuan cost. The city’s estimate for a parking garage is $16 million and would be among the Beaufort County projects funded by a sales tax referendum on the ballot in November.
Mike Sutton, who chaired the committee that chose the projects the 1 percent sales tax would fund, said private investment in a downtown garage should be welcome. The public investment of millions for the garage could be taken off the table or funneled to other projects, he said.
“This is the best it can get in my mind, because it’s the private sector doing the right thing rather than asking the public to do something,” Sutton said.
The 32-foot parking garage would represent a huge change to the block. And some participants during Friday’s meeting balked at the mass.
Those included Kenneth Hodges, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church on Craven Street and a state representative. Hodges said he would erect a plastic structure the height of the garage and move it around to show area residents how big the building would be.
The garage would be made of large, concrete pieces brought in but softened with brick or stucco facade.
“I can’t make the sheer mass go away,” said Greg Darden, of Stewart’s contractor Structured Parking Solutions.
Plans for the garage have been submitted to the city’s historic review panel for conceptual approval. Joel Newman, the architect who chairs the Historic District Review Board, has already offered input, Stewart said.