The Woodlands Township board of directors voted Feb. 24 to defer building a new parking garage in Town Center that was originally proposed in 2009.
The uncertainly of economic conditions due to the downturn in the oil and gas industry was a main concern for directors when considering the issue.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of the situation yet,” Director Mike Bass said. “I hear rumors of additional layoffs within The Woodlands, and I think we’ll see more downturn in the Houston area to begin with.”
Township finance director Monique Sharp said retail sales tax numbers in The Woodlands—the biggest portion of the budget comprising 45 percent—have been flat for two months.
“If we continue to be flat, that would have an impact of $1.7 million in the [fiscal year 2016-17] budget,” she said. “At this point in time looking at the data, I can’t confidently say we’ll meet [this year’s] sales tax budget.”
The garage was proposed for the southwest corner of Six Pines and Lake Robbins drives—where the existing Gold Lot sits today—and would provide parking for the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel. The project has gone through several re-evaluations in the past six years.
“We looked at the parking issues in Town Center and said a fourth park and ride by itself would pull ridership from other areas and be disingenuous,” Bass said. “Then we began to look at it as a transit hub.”
The township was initially awarded $3.8 million in capital grant funding from two sources to build the parking garage: a Federal Transit Administration grant and a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant from the Houston-Galveston Area Council.
However, since the township did not apply for the CMAQ grant within a certain time period, the funds reverted back to H-GAC.
“H-GAC is reasonably upset about this because they’ve been holding this money when they could have used it on another project in the region,” Bass said.
The cost to build the garage is $5.2 million, which would have meant a net construction cost of $1.2 million for the township.
“I’m increasingly concerned about spending money, especially on things that are discretionary,” Bass said.
Although the project was deferred, visitors and employees to Town Center will have some parking relief later this year when a new garage is completed at The Woodlands Mall. The three-level garage will provide additional parking to the 5,800 existing spaces at the mall.