City agrees to maintain N. Old Woodward deck
By Kevin Elliott
Birmingham city commissioners on Monday, September 13, approved a contract to repair the N. Old Woodward parking structure, seemingly settling questions about the longevity and place of the facility in the city’s future.
Commissioners unanimously approved the contract with Smith’s Waterproofing for $891,303 for parking structure repairs throughout the city's system, with the majority of work in 2022 focusing at the N. Old Woodward deck. The structure underwent emergency repairs in early 2020, after pieces of concrete fell off the facade and damaged a vehicle exiting.
Commissioner Mark Nickita said he was reluctant to approve additional repairs for the structure, which he said may better serve another purpose in the future.
“This is our oldest (garage) in the group of five that we have, and I have always felt that there is a higher and better use for that site,” he said. “Given the fact that there is now a million-and-a-half dollars invested – and I understand that some of that was required based on safety issues because the deck was literally falling apart, and I think it continues to be in that position – adding another million now with what seems to be an additional few million that will potentially happen, we are essentially saying this deck is going to be here for a long time.”
Commissioner Clinton Baller also questioned the logic of putting money into the parking deck, which he said may be better suited for other uses.
“I think it’s imperative to begin a process of planning for that parcel,” Baller said. “We aren’t doing that, yet. We would know a lot more if we are throwing good money after bad if we had a good plan for that parcel and knew if we wanted to keep the N. Old Woodward deck for another 20 or 30 years or tear it down in five and do something different.”
Birmingham Police Commander Scott Grewe, who oversees the parking operations under the police department, said a recent assessment of the parking decks noted the deck could withstand another 10 to 30 years of operation with proper maintenance.
Nickita said while the city should plan for the future of the site, those plans appear to be developing by the necessity of the repairs.
“By the investment we have already put into this, and the amount we would potentially put into it now and going forward in the next couple years, it would be beyond the point of return,” he said. “I think it would be difficult to tell the public that we spent $6 million on a deck and now we are going to reevaluate the deck for redevelopment of some sort or tear it down. I think that decision has already been made, unfortunately, because we have invested a notable amount of money, and frankly if we don’t invest in it now, it’s going to start to be detrimental to potential safety issues.”
Commissioners unanimously agreed to approve the contract. A competing contractor and labor union representatives encouraged the commission to reconsider the contract with Smith’s and choose a union-supported contractor.
The N. Old Woodward parking structure had been proposed for replacement in recent years as part of a larger development plan to add retail development to the site, including RH, which is now scheduled to be built on S. Old Woodward, but voters rejected a bond proposal that would have funded the parking deck replacement.