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Chester Street garage repair contract awarded

By Grace Lovins


A contractor has officially been selected to begin repair work for the Chester Street parking garage after the Birmingham City Commission voted to award the contract during the Monday, June 24, meeting.


The city will also begin drafting a request for proposals (RFP) to hire an interior architect to help with the design of the garage.


Repairs to the Chester Street structure were planned for this year after structural assessment reports were completed on all five of the city’s parking decks by engineering firm Wiss, Janney and Elstner Associates, Inc (WJE). A five-year plan was included in the assessment to address the repairs for all five garages.


During the previous city commission meeting on Monday, June 3, parking systems manager Aaron Ford presented RAM Construction as the firm selected by city staff to execute the structural repairs, waterproofing, façade repairs and bringing the garage to ADA compliance. The contract award was put on hold over the commission’s concerns about lack of attention to design elements during the undertaking.


While kicking off discussions during Monday night’s meeting, Ford and city manager Jana Ecker explained that the lighting had been removed from the contract to be addressed later so that structural repairs may move forward. Both companies that bid on the project, RAM Construction and Pullman SST, Inc., were given the opportunity to adjust their proposals with the lighting removed, and the city again selected RAM Construction’s proposal.


Commissioners had also requested at the last meeting that the city look for an interior designer to help with aesthetic decisions for the garage to make it more inviting to motorists. Ford said the city tried to solicit bids by reaching out to four firms. Three of the four firms declined to submit a proposal, but Heid Architects submitted a proposal for $74,000.


Their proposal included lighting recommendations, color and finish recommendations for the walls, floors and ceilings, incorporation of branding and wayfinding in accordance with the city's approved wayfinding plan and any other creative or innovative features that create a unique sense of place.


As an alternative option to hiring Heid Architects, the city also installed four light fixtures and painted four paint swatches at the Chester garage for commissioners to take a look. The lighting was chosen by Illuminart – highly regarded lighting consultants who are already working with WJE on the project – proposed an entire replacement of the all the garage lights to LED lighting.


Commissioner Clinton Baller, who was adamant during the last meeting that the city looks for a designer to help with the project, repeated his points from June 3, saying that he is in favor of issuing a request for proposals (RFP) to hire a designer to look at all of the city’s decks.


Offering a different view, commissioner Therese Longe suggested the city use the resources already available to them.


“I’m not in favor of hiring Heid [Architects] at this point, and I’m perhaps not in favor of an RFP for designers,” she said. “I’d like to know how far we can get with the lighting consultant we have already and implementation of the wayfinding signage and colors.”


While the commissioners each had a differing view of how to approach the design elements of the garage, they all agreed that the structural repairs were needed to move forward. In one motion, the commission voted unanimously, 6-0, to award the contract for the garage work to RAM Construction. Mayor pro tem Katie Schafer was absent from the meeting.


Deliberations about the design elements continued after the first vote, and the commission ultimately made the decision to direct staff to create an RFP for interior architectural services for the Chester garage that may possibly include landscaping.


“My concern is that we have just kicked off the construction part of it and the clock is ticking with regard to lighting and painting. We need a way forward with regard to that and if this is our way forward then I’m fine with that,” commissioner Anthony Long said.


The commission voted 4-2 to direct city staff to begin working on the RFP. Both commissioners Andrew Haig and Brad Host voted ‘no.’

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