The city of Binghamton is looking to spend $1.4 million to revamp Downtown Binghamton parking garages in the upcoming year.
In his State of the City address in February, Binghamton Mayor Richard David announced plans to renovate and restore garages on State Street, Water Street and Collier Street, which have fallen into disrepair. In 2006, a four-ton slab of concrete collapsed from Water Street’s garage, although the damage was eventually fixed.
Deputy Mayor Jared Kraham said that although no incidents of that magnitude have occurred since, the garages are crumbling and have poor floor drainage.
“These restorations are for structural integrity, safety and general repair purposes,” Kraham said. “They play critical roles in not only economic development, but also visitors’ first impressions when coming to Downtown Binghamton.”
The project will take at least until the end of the year, but according to Kraham, the garages will still be fully operational during the renovation process. The concrete will be patched, the external steel beams will be reinforced, the drains and curbs will be repaired and all the structures will be waterproofed.
The renovations will be funded through Binghamton’s capital bonding fund and parking fund. The capital bonding fund is a program that allows the city to borrow money from the state for restructuring and remodeling projects that it can repay over a span of 15 to 30 years.
Responses to the investment were mixed. Some said that the renovations are necessary and others argued that the money could be put to better use.
“I don’t think renovating the parking garages would really convince anyone to spend more time Downtown,” said Jessica Yee, a senior majoring in biology. “It seems like a waste of money.”
Students who drive Downtown for classes face added stress getting to class on time when parking is sparse, said Alexandra Moehring, a junior double-majoring in English and human development.
“I have class in the Downtown Center, and I prefer to drive,” Moehring said. “The buses aren’t always reliable, but parking is the worst. If parking was easier and more accessible, I’d go Downtown more often. I want to stay and grab dinner after class but my meter spot is usually up or I’m parked somewhere illegally.”
Binghamton Hots owner David Whalen also said that better parking options could improve local business.
“I think the repairs are long overdue,” Whalen said. “I think people are hesitant to visit the Downtown area at times because they fear parking issues.”
Bruce Potter, the owner of Courtyard Gifts located Downtown, said that garage improvements were necessary, but that City Hall should make a variety of nonstructural additions, including more lighting and retail options.
“As a person gets older they become more leery of using these parking garages because of the conditions,” Potter said. “Binghamton is not doing it the right way. The mayor needs to travel to other cities and see how these other areas are surviving.”
Although plans are not finalized, Kraham said that in the future, the city wants to further expand parking options at Collier Street and add space for stores and businesses to the complex.
“It could transform the nature of Downtown Binghamton,” Kraham said.
James Trojano, a head server at sake-tumi on Court Street, said he thinks the increased parking options will improve the appearance and atmosphere of Downtown.
“Once the garages do get repaired, we know for a fact that our businesses will be affected,” Trojano said. “If they do make them look better and expand them, it will make everything better as a whole.”