Developers of the proposed Crossroads Phase 2 have satisfied part of their parking requirement by purchasing land historically used as free parking and making it reserved.
The spaces were purchased for a development that is on hold indefinitely as a result of the national recession.
Phil Bryson and Jim Hoffmann will receive credit for creating 13 parking spaces as a result of buying a section of railroad right of way north of 12th Street, behind the 1201 Lofts and The Durango Herald building, one block north of Crossroads Phase 1.
The public and employees in the 1200 block of Main Avenue have parked in the right of way for decades. However, the area along the east side of the tracks was never formally designated as parking. And the railroad never raised a fuss.
Under city guidelines, developers must provide a certain number of parking spaces or pay a fee in lieu of parking when adding square footage downtown.
Crossroads will lease the 13 spaces to employees for $50 a month per space until Phase 2 is built. When Phase 2 is completed, the spaces will be reserved for Crossroads employees and tenants exclusively, said Jim Hoffmann, an architect of Crossroads.
By purchasing the property, Crossroads has ensured the spaces will be used in perpetuity for parking, said Greg Hoch, planning director. Developers are allowed to create parking up to 800 feet, or about 2½ city blocks, from their project, he said.
Had the property not sold, the railroad could have used the right of way for something else or it could have discontinued allowing people to park there.
The railroad has begun managing its right of way more as an asset, said Jeff Jackson, chief operating officer of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
"The railroad's most valuable asset is its right of way," Jackson said.
The railroad approached businesses along the right of way, including Crossroads, about vacating the right of way or purchasing the property, he said. It sold several spaces to the Northpoint Mall, also in the 1200 block of Main Avenue.
Bryson said he leapt at the opportunity to buy the right of way north of 12th Street. The developers paid almost $15,000 per space, he said. By comparison, the city charges about $13,000 in lieu of providing a parking space. But then there is no guarantee the city will create parking close to the project, which creates an inconvenience to owners, customers and employees, Bryson said.
"Parking spots in downtown are just so hard to come by," he said. "When the train approached us, we said: 'Are you kidding? We'll buy them.' In the long run, whatever parking spots you can get downtown are pretty critical."
The railroad has allowed people to park in its right of way for years, Jackson said. But it is a win-win situation to sell the right of way and formalize the parking situation, he said.
"It was a gray area, and this easement cleaned it up for everyone, including the community," he said.
Crossroads needed to create 248 parking spaces for Phases 1 and 2. It met that requirement with a 23-space parking garage in Phase 1, a 51-space parking garage that will be a part of Phase 2, the creation of 110 spaces between Eighth Street and 12th Street, paying an in lieu fee for 51 spaces, and purchasing the 13 spaces north of 12th Street.
While there is no net increase in parking as a result of purchasing the land north of 12th Street, it does satisfy the city's parking requirements for new development, Bryson said.
"The fact that people got to use them for free for all those years is great," he said. "But the fact is they were privately owned all that time.
"In one sense, it's not adding parking to downtown, but on the other side, someone was going to own them and have them be a part of their project."