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Contractors building the parking deck in downtown Gainesville say the deck likely won’t be complete by Mule Camp Market in October, but festival patrons will still be able to park their cars there.
Optum Construction President Ed Maxwell told the Gainesville City Council on Thursday that weather and events at the Georgia Mountains Center have delayed progress on the $6.85 million deck. Further, issues with a subcontractor installing the deck’s elevators will keep them from being installed by Mule Camp, the second weekend in October.
Optum’s project manager, Matt Magnus, told the City Council 51 days of rain has caused significant delays in construction. Even Thursday, when contractors were set to pour concrete, progress was delayed by Wednesday’s rainfall in Gainesville, Magnus said.
“We’ve just been killed with rain,” Magnus said. “Right now, we’re working six days a week trying to get this occupiable by Oct. 8th.”
However, City Councilman Danny Dunagan questioned how 51 days of rain could put the project nearly 90 days behind schedule.
Maxwell said other delays were caused by the city, which asked the contractors to delay the demolition of the old deck by two weeks in January to allow the Georgia Mountains Center to host a preplanned event without the nuisance of construction noise.
Representatives from Optum and the deck’s architect, Steve Hill, said issues with the elevator manufacturer, Schindler Corp., also have made progress more difficult. Though the deck will be ready for parking by Oct. 8, the elevators will not yet be installed, Maxwell said.
“It’s been a nightmare of a struggle,” Maxwell said. “... We just can’t seem to understand what the hold up is, but at this point we’re doing everything we can pushing them, including legally pushing them, to uphold the contract and try to get them to perform.”
Schindler was chosen because it was the low bidder on the project, but Hill said representatives from the company have been unresponsive to his and Optum’s attempts at communication.
“They have just been — well, I can tell you, I won’t use them again,” Hill said. “They’ve just not been cooperative with anybody on the property from day one.”
A representative from Schindler did not return a call from The Times seeking comment by press time, but Optum representatives said they are considering finding another elevator manufacturer to complete the parking deck.
Mayor Myrtle Figueras expressed a concern about the effect of the drawn-out construction time on downtown businesses. Since January, only one lane has been open on Main Street from Spring Street to Broad Street, and downtown parking has been limited without the old deck.
“I just feel like my word is my bond and we promised the merchants downtown, the businesses downtown, that they would get parking,” Figueras said. “We promised them that we would start work after Christmas to be out of the Christmas rush, but then also to give them time to get their businesses going when they’re supposed to get them going in the fall; and now I feel like we’ve let them down.”
When it is complete, the four-level deck will accommodate 419 vehicles and is designed to allow growth to a six-level deck.