Butler seeks private interest to build parking garage

Butler University now is looking to partner with an outside developer to build an on-campus parking garage in an attempt to mitigate concerns about its current parking capacity.
Butler issued to developers a request for interest and qualifications that states a desire to build a structure near Lake Road that could accommodate 600-900 parking spaces along with mixed-use retail.
“We have parking issues that we need to address,” said Ben Hunter, chief of staff.
Butler issued the RFQ because various entities, including the city of Indianapolis, had concerns about Butler building new structures unless it adds parking capacity, Hunter said.
Butler is not committed to award a contract from this request.
The school’s current parking capacity also doesn’t allow it to pursue future projects such as potentially adding beautification streetscapes, he said, which would eliminate some current street parking, or developing a hub to attract public transportation.
“In terms of future development, we merely don’t have the capacity to do that,” Hunter said.
Hunter said the RFQ states that breaking ground on a potential parking structure could take place as early as fall of 2013, but the process will go through several vetting stages and that there is no official timeline.
“With big decisions like this you have to take your time to make sure you’re doing the right thing,” Hunter said.
The ultimate decision will come from Butler University’s Board of Trustees, he said.
Evaluating existing and new funding sources is a reality that will have to be factored into a future decision, Hunter said.
A principal at Walker Parking Consultants Engineers who asked not to be named said structured parking traditionally costs anywhere from $11,000-$13,000 per space.
Using that estimate, the garage could cost upwards of $9 million to build if it achieves the university’s desired capacity.
But the decision to add mixed-use retail to a potential parking garage could alleviate some of the costs associated with building the garage.
One possibility is that revenue from retail tenants’ rent could offset the university’s financial burden.
The desire to add retail to the mix of the new project isn’t just to offset costs. It is to improve student life, Hunter said.
Hunter presented the RFQ to the Council on Presidential Affairs yesterday morning.
One idea that came out of that meeting was toattract a community pharmacy to the retail portion of the project in order to support pharmacy students.
Another idea was to attract a brewery or pub for students to socialize, said CPA Chair Mike Tirman.
“A lot of the ideas we brought up, the administration was already on, which was cool,” Tirman said.
The location of the garage would be in 3-acre area near Lake Road behind Clowes Memorial Hall and the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Performing Arts.
Hunter said he has no idea what the garage would look like because he’s leaving it up to the experts to come up with ideas.
“There are a lot of creative ideas that have been brought to us,” Hunter said.
Tirman said building a parking garage is necessary to address student concerns and provides creative solutions to other issues.
“It’s a necessary step,” said Tirman, who mentioned that the most frequent complaint his organization receives is about parking capacity. “This needs to happen so that Butler can expand and improve its current facilities.”
The university will accept sealed expressions of interest and qualifications from developers until May 7.