State legislators and members of the University of Wyoming’s Board of Trustees came to a general consensus Monday that the university should construct a parking garage on the north side of Grand Avenue, between 10th and 11th streets.
That site already houses a parking lot, but members of the UW Housing Task Force — consisting of UW leaders, legislators and Laramie Mayor Joe Shumway — have eyed the location south of Old Main as a prime spot to place new parking. The construction of new dormitories along 15th Street is expected to eliminate the parking adjacent to the Wyoming Union.
The UW Housing Task Force, convened by the Legislature to oversee the construction of at least $300 million in new dorms, made plans Monday to vote in August on its recommendations for where the first two dorms should be placed.
Newly rehired Vice President for Administration Bill Mai has been tasked with, in the next two weeks, creating the first draft of what the task force will vote on in August.
Mai is working on an interim basis during the next 12 months.
Preliminary planning has the university expecting to begin demolition of Wyoming Hall in January. Construction of two new dorms, to be located on the site of Wyoming Hall and the metered parking immediately to the south, is expected to begin later in 2020.
The parking lot to the east of the union is expected to be the staging area for construction activities.
When the housing task force began meeting this year, its members quickly identified a parking garage as a top need for the university. The 2019 state law creating the financing scheme for dorms construction to proceed requires the university’s dorms overhaul to create a net increase in parking.
Originally, task force members considered the city block on the northwest corner of 15th and Bradley streets, where UW Police’s current building is, as the likely site for a parking garage.
UW Trustee John McKinley, who’s been the most vocal on the task force about the need for a parking garage, was adamant Monday that the university actually needs two garages.
“I think you need one on both the north and south side of campus,” McKinley said.
After discussion, the task force agreed to make the Grand Avenue parking garage the immediate priority.
Shumway said that plan is also convenient for the city, since a 2009 transportation plan calls for a reconstruction of Ivinsion Avenue, which Shumway noted could be tailored to take the garage traffic into account.
“It’s also a prime space for a parking structure for the purpose of linking the community with the university,” he said.
City staff have been asked to give a presentation at the task force’s August meeting about what impacts on traffic flow the garage could create.
Replacing the UW Police building with a parking garage has led to a proposal for the police department to be housed in either of the two parking garages slated for construction.
Task force members have noted parking garages can have a reputation of being unsafe and prone to criminal activity. Legislators cited safety concerns with the parking garage next to the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne.
UW Police Chief Mike Samp said having the police department at the parking garage would “enhance that perceived safety and maybe the actual level of safety.”
“From a community service perspective, it makes perfect sense,” he said.
Samp said it would also benefit UW Police’s accessibility to the public if there were auxiliary offices elsewhere on campus. Legislators said that, even if the police headquarters are housed at the Grand Avenue garage, it could be prudent to have another police office at the 15th Street garage.
Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, proposed Monday the UW Police building should be housed at the Grand Avenue location, with the entrance facing Ivinson Avenue.
UW Trustee Kermit Brown did express concern about how the parking garage would be paid for.
If UW were to issue bonds to pay for a 600-space, $15 million garage, the university would likely face annual debt service costs of $770,000.
UW staff estimated the university would need to triple to the price of parking passes if end-users were to cover the cost.
That would mean an annual parking pass for staff would cost $637.
“I don’t know who’s going to pay for that,” said Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie.
McKinley suggested Monday that UW could ask for increased funding from the Legislature to pay for the parking garage.
“Exactly, that’s what I’m getting at,” Brown said.