RICHMOND -- Nearly three years ago, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin hailed the groundbreaking on a mammoth new parking garage at the Richmond BART station as part of the city's shift away from fossil fuels.
After several delays, mostly because of inclement weather periods, the six-story parking garage is about a month away from opening.
"The garage is scheduled to open in late May," said Chadrick Smalley, the city's development project manager. "Currently, the contractor is completing final punch list items."
The towering tan structure sits beside Macdonald Avenue and just a few paces west of the downtown BART station's entrance. It will provide 769 parking spaces for BART commuters and ultimately replace parking spaces on the east side of the BART station, making room for the second phase of the Richmond Transit Village, said BART spokesman James Allison.
The construction cost was about $34.5 million, Smalley said, with $28.4million of the total coming from federal, state and local transportation grants and the other $6.1 million from the former Richmond Community Redevelopment Agency. In addition to the parking levels, the ground floor will house about 9,000 square feet of retail space.
The parking structure is the latest phase in the Richmond Transit Village Project, which over the past decade has seen the construction of 132 townhouses and approximately 7,500 square feet of retail space along a pedestrian walkway with a terminus at the BART station.
The station opened in 1973, and serves as a modern anchor after the post-World War II collapse of the downtown.
"Downtown has re-emerged as a pretty happening place," said Marilyn Langlois, spokeswoman for the Richmond Progressive Alliance.
Langlois said the new parking accommodations should draw more commuters downtown, breathing additional life into an area that has seen marked increases in pedestrian traffic in recent years.
The local Mainstreet Improvement Association has grown to include several merchants, and a new downtown farmers market will open on the Nevin Avenue walkway next month as well, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Wednesday. A monthly music festival and weekly "eco-village farm" event are also scheduled to run all summer.
Langlois said making parking more convenient at the Richmond BART is part of an overall effort to ease traffic and air pollution.
"The extra parking is an encouragement to take regional mass transit rather than clogging the freeways," Langlois said.