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Downtown parking ramp proposed

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Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Detroit Lakes and Becker County officials met Wednesday and threshed out a preliminary agreement on how to pay for a new parking ramp near the courthouse.

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The ramp is expected to cost about $2.5 million and will provide 100 parking spots. It would be located kitty-corner from the north end of the courthouse, in the city parking lot used by patrons of the Washington Square Mall and the courthouse annex offices.

There's still a chance the ramp will be located elsewhere, or some other parking option will be found. But if the ramp is built, costs will likely be split 20-80 between the city and the county, with the county paying the lion's share because it needs the ramp for its new "courts addition" to be built on the north side of the courthouse.

If preliminary estimates hold up, the county will pay about $2 million and the city about $500,000.

That's if the City Council and County Board go along with the parking committee's recommendation.

The committee includes several aldermen and county commissioners, as well as city and county administrators, so its recommendation should carry some weight.

The county has budgeted $1.5 million for parking to go with its courthouse project, but it's not clear where the city funding will come from. Some of it may in the form of assessments on businesses included in a new assessment parking district.

Most downtown businesses believe more parking is needed, and would probably be willing to pay something toward that end, depending on the cost, said Alderman Ron Zeman.

Mall Manager Dawn Olson said most business owners see a parking ramp as a positive development.

"Everybody I talk to is excited about it -- covered parking is great. Will they use it? Of course they will."

Mayor Larry Buboltz said the support of the business community is important if the ramp project to move forward.

"We're going to need to hear from business people that they want more parking," he said, urging Zeman, Olson and others with business connections to spread the word prior to a community meeting. A date has not yet been set for that meeting.

"It should be a win-win deal all the way through," Zeman said. "We're going to have 100 parking spaces that people are going to use -- right now we have spaces down there that people don't like to use."

The committee agreed that 100 spaces will meet the needs of the new courthouse addition, which will bring another 20 or so workers to the courthouse as the county consolidates its outlying offices.

County officials had worried they would be required to provide 135 new parking spots, since city zoning requirements call for five parking spots for every 1,000 square feet of new commercial construction.

The courthouse addition will be 28,000 square feet. The county hopes to break ground on the project this spring.

City officials said they don't expect any problems in granting the county's parking variance request, which is expected to come before the city development commission next month.

"We want to keep the courthouse people downtown and we want parking in a place it's useable for downtown," said DL Community Development Direc-tor Larry Remmen. "There's a benefit to the city."

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