Convention Facilities Authority plans new garage
The Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority is planning a 650-space, $18 million parking garage, saying more parking is needed near the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
“We are in the event business and part of that means we have to provide parking spaces for those who drive in to our event,” Authority Executive Director Don Brown said Thursday.
The new garage would be built on what is now an Authority-owned surface parking lot Brown called “The Lower Yard,” east of the Convention Center and north of the Drury Inn near Nationwide Boulevard and North 3rd Street.
The authority currently has 4,000 parking spaces in three parking garages and a surface lot for attendance at Columbus Blue Jackets games, Convention Center events and visits to the Short North and Arena District. Even with 4,000 spots, “we typically have overflow conditions” during events, Brown said.
“They’re Ohioans. They don’t want to walk from the north garage. That’s a half-mile,” Brown said of the distance from the Convention Center to the Goodale garage, which he said “is half-full all the time.”
The Authority plans to sell bonds — similar to taking out a mortgage on a residence — to raise the $18 million needed for the garage. County Treasurer Cheryl Brooks Sullivan plans to buy the bonds because they pay more than the average government bond investment.
“We did this before,” Commission President John O’Grady said Thursday.
Those entities agreed when the Authority built the $18 million, 800-space Goodale parking garage that opened in 2016 that the treasurer would buy the bonds. The same thing happened, County Administrator Kenneth Wilson noted, when the Authority built its Vine Street parking garage.
“It was a fantastic investment for the county,” O’Grady said Thursday. The three county commissioners sit on the Treasurer’s investment advisory committee.
With the treasurer buying the bonds, it saves the county the cost of issuing bonds on the private market, provides a better financial return and is a safe investment because the income backing the bonds comes from all of the Authority’s parking facilities, two of which are debt-free, Wilson said. The county also can opt out of the financing after five years.
The new garage will have access from existing ramps from North 3rd Street to the Convention Center and secondary access from Nationwide Boulevard.
The board is expected to consider approval at Tuesday’s meeting to seek proposals for the design and construction of the garage, expected to open in 2020.
“I expect the board will authorize this to go ahead,” Brown said.