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Tue, June 25

Dig results leave garage start uncertain

PRESCOTT – Months of planning, reviews, and tweaking ended Tuesday with the Prescott City Council's approval of four final agreements for the parking garage in downtown Prescott.

Those final actions take care of the last details between the city and its partners, M3 Companies and Legacy Partners.

However, the approvals do not mean that construction on the project is ready to begin immediately. Still casting some uncertainty on the start of the project is the archaeological work at the site.

With little discussion this week, the City Council unanimously OK'd: the final plat for the garage, a declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions; and amendments to the Prescott City Centre agreement and the design/build agreement.

The four approvals have set the stage for the start of construction of the garage at the site of the current public parking lot on Granite Street near its intersection with Goodwin Street.

"On the plus side, we got a lot done this week," said City Manager Larry Asaro on Wednesday. "Everything's in place."

But the city and its partners still are awaiting word on an archaeological survey that took place at the site last week.

That work turned up a number of artifacts from life in Prescott in the 1890s – mainly from the Chinese community that lived and worked along Granite Street in Prescott's early days.

Because M3 and Legacy will be using Housing and Urban Development (HUD) financing for the portion of the building that will house apartments, the project requires a federal sign-off on archaeological matters.

The National Historic Preservation Act requires the testing at the site, and it also calls for mitigation of adverse effects to the historical remains, said Carol Griffith, deputy with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the agency that is administering the federal requirements.

A consulting company, SWCA Inc., conducted the initial archaeological survey for the city and M3. Now, the consultants are working on a report on what they found underneath the parking lot.

Michael Foster, senior project manager for SWCA, said the report should be ready in a week or two.

But, Foster said, the initial survey will probably not be the end of the archaeological work at the site.

"We found enough there to indicate that more data recovery would be necessary," Foster said. "Certainly, some more work will have to be done. How much is not exactly clear yet."

Once SWCA completes its initial report, that information goes to the state and federal agencies. Griffith said the next step is a determination about whether the property is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

"The federal agency has to make a determination," Griffith said.

She pointed out that SHPO has placed the matter on a "fast track." Although the state has 30 days to review the matter, "we're trying to do it in less than that," Griffith said.

If the federal and state agencies do decide that more archaeological work is necessary, the work could add weeks to the parking garage schedule.

Foster speculated that more data recovery might be necessary at the site to explore the intact trash deposits fully and to document the building foundations that the initial survey turned up beneath the parking lot.

He estimated that full data recovery at the site could take four to six weeks to complete. "It would be a lot more labor intensive than the first survey," Foster said.

Asaro said any significant delay could have serious effects on the schedule for the parking garage.

For months now, the city has been working toward a spring 2002 completion of the garage. City officials and downtown merchants have been adamant that it should be complete and open for business before the summer 2002 tourist season.

Asaro pointed out that the parking garage construction will take about eight months. Any delays beyond a couple of weeks could jeopardize the schedule, he said.

"It it's a few weeks, we'll try to work it out," Asaro noted. "But if it goes beyond that, it could be a real problem."

Not only would the delay push the construction into the summer season, it could affect the bids that M3 already has from contractors, Asaro said, which "in this case, time could be money."

The city and M3 are splitting the $25,000 cost of the initial survey at the site. Any further work will also be split between the two.

Contact Cindy Barks at cbarks@prescottaz.com

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