Garage delays stifle Whiskey Row projects

PRESCOTT – Delays continue to plague the downtown parking garage, and that, in turn, is leading to a "domino effect" with other related projects.

Even as the City of Prescott was announcing the latest delay this week in the archaeological work that is necessary at the Granite Street parking garage site, word was circulating in the community that construction of the proposed Barrett building on Whiskey Row was no longer moving forward.

And, in the meantime, the refurbishing of the Whiskey Row alley still awaits the start of the parking garage construction.

The status of the Barrett building was a topic of discussion at Friday's Prescott Preservation Commission meeting. Commission Chairman Barnabas Kane voiced concerns about the demolition permit that the commission had earlier reviewed for the old building at the site, because of rumors that the Barretts no longer intended to construct a new building.

"We approved the Barrett building, and now I hear that the project is on hold or gone," Kane said. "Can we pull the (demolition permit) now that the project is dead?"

Malcolm Barrett Jr., who – along with his father and brother – owns the Whiskey Row property where the project was to take place, confirmed the rumor on Friday. "At this point, that's correct," Barrett said of the commission's assumption that the project would not happen.

That doesn't totally rule out the project in two or three years from now, Barrett said, "but right now it's in limbo."

The delays with the parking garage played a major role in the current status of the project, Barrett said. "It does have a lot to do with the parking garage schedule," he said of the decision to hold off on the building.

If not for the delays, he said, the new Barrett building on Whiskey Row could be under construction by now.

Last March, when the Barrett building got the approval it needed from the Preservation Commission, the city expected to begin construction on the parking garage within weeks. But a series of delays has pushed off the start of the garage several times. Now, city officials say the archaeological work at the site probably won't begin until March, with building construction beginning at least a month after that.

The Barrett building was closely tied to the parking garage, because the owners and the city had reached an agreement to allow a public walkway through the new building. The walkway would have allowed pedestrians to move easily from the parking garage to Whiskey Row.

All of the delays in the parking garage project apparently served to dull the Barretts' enthusiasm for the new building. "We just don't have the same passion for it that we once had," Barrett said. "We have other priorities right now."

Added Barrett: "We're out of patience."

Without a new building on the horizon, Barrett said he and his brother and father have no intention of moving forward with the demolition of the old building. The family has not decided yet whether to look for new tenants in the old building or sell it altogether, Barrett added.

The walkway, which was an integral part of the Barrett building plans, got Prescott City Council approval in September. If the Barretts do decide to go ahead with the building eventually, Barrett said, "the walkway is still intact."

But the chain of events on the garage affects another project that is in the works in the area as well: the renovations on the Whiskey Row alley.

Dale Wachs, an engineer with the city's Public Works Department, pointed out that the design for the alley work has been complete for about a year now. The city has been delaying the construction until the parking garage work is under way.

Wachs added that the news about the Barrett building could affect the design of the alley work. The original plans included a crosswalk that would have connected the alley entrance of the parking garage with the walkway through the Barrett building. If there is no walkway, Wachs said, the crosswalk might also go away.

"We'll have to look at that," Wachs said of the situation surrounding the Barrett building. "That has changed things."

According to Wachs, the delays in the parking garage construction triggered the "domino effect" on the projects in the area. One portion of the alley work involves replacing and burying much of the electrical system. But that can't happen until workers tear down the retaining wall in the alley, which is part of the parking garage project. In turn, the alley pavement work can't take place until the electrical work is complete.

Wachs said the city hopes to begin the alley construction soon after the parking garage construction gets under way. "Once we get a feel for when the garage starts, we will get our ducks in a row on the alley work," he said.

Greg Fister, economic development coordinator for the city, said the elimination of a walkway through the Barrett building should not affect the construction of the garage. City officials likely will look for another way for pedestrians to get between the garage and Whiskey Row – possibly through the Hotel St. Michael, he said.