Motorists and bicyclists in Five Points will see a welcome sight in the not-to-distant future — more parking spaces.
Columbia City Council agreed Tuesday to a 50-year lease agreement with the owner of the longtime Exxon gas station to convert the property to a parking lot that will accommodate about 35 cars, bicycles and possibly mopeds.
City parking services director John Spade said Wednesday he’s unsure when the lot will open. The owner still must demolish the service station building and remove underground fuel tanks.
The property owner is Stan Harpe, who in 2007 wanted to build a six-story retail and residential building at the site of the former Kenny’s Auto shop. The project kicked up strident opposition. Harpe then developed a Walgreen’s drugstore there instead.
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The busy entertainment district on the eastern edge of the University of South Carolina campus is short about 200 parking spaces, said Amy Beth Franks, director of the Five Points Association.
“When you are trying to run a vibrant entertainment and retail-heavy district, parking is an absolute necessity,” Franks said. “We are thankful to have the additional parking put into our neighborhood.”
The lease, which calls for three renewal terms, will cost the city $100,000 annually for the first five years, according to the contract council authorized. The yearly rate rises to $107,500 for the next five years, then climbs in increments to $188,937 by the final stage of the 50-year agreement.
City Hall has a first option to buy the land if Harpe gets an offer from a purchaser, according to the contract.
Staff Writer Harrison Cahill contributed.