by Joni Astrup
The Elk River City Council has voted unanimously to pay $225,000 for 68 parking spaces in two downtown lots.
The spaces are located directly behind the businesses on the south side of Main Street between Jackson and King avenues and next to Rivers Edge Commons Park. Houlton Investment Co. currently owns the parking spaces.
The parking includes the upper and the lower lots.
City Administrator Lori Johnson said the lots currently are private parking, although they function as public parking. Houlton Investment Co. was looking to sell the lots. The city is buying them to ensure that they remain as public parking.
“It is our intent to preserve those parking spaces for the vitality of the downtown businesses,” Johnson said during the April 4 council meeting. “We feel it’s crucial that those parking spots remain.” She said the spaces also will be available to be used as parking for the park.
Mayor John Dietz said the city can’t afford to sit idly by while someone else may purchase the lots, potentially resulting in the loss of public parking downtown.
Under the terms of the deal, the city is paying $1,000 at the time of signing the purchase agreement, with the balance at closing. Johnson said they intend to close on the sale prior to the end of April. The purchase is contingent upon getting some easements.
The city has reviewed the condition of the parking lots and the pavement is in good shape.
Money for the purchase will come from an annual payment made by the Great River Energy peaking plant to the city.
The peaking plant, located along Highway 169 on the GRE campus, began commercial operation in 2009. The plant is paying the city $375,000 for five years. The first payment was made in 2010.
The cost of the parking stalls comes out to $3,300 each. By comparison, the cost of building a parking ramp or deck spaces is estimated to be between $10,000 to $15,000 per stall, according to Johnson.