Novato is about six weeks away from the start of construction at the site of the new city administrative office building that will become a new home for about 60 city employees.
That first shovel in the dirt will create some challenges for people accustomed to using one of the Old Town area's parking lots. The lot on Machin Avenue, used partly by the , will be fenced off and used as a corporation yard during the 13 months of construction for the new offices on the north side of the lot.
The city, the police department and downtown business owners all seem to wonder how this is going to work.
"We're looking at options to accommodate those who would be parking there," said city engineer Julian Skinner, one of the employees who would eventually move from the leased city offices on Rowland Way into the new building at the corner of Machin Avenue and Cain Lane.
The Novato City Council recently approved the project to go out to bid, and June 26 is the planned date for the council to vote on awarding a contract to the low bidder, Skinner said. If there are no unexpected delays, construction could start the week of July 16, and one of the first things a contractor would do is put up a fence around the existing lot so it can be used for equipment storage, he said.
"There's just not a convenient way to keep a portion of that lot open," Skinner said. "There will be times when the entire lot is not needed, but it would be hard to be opening and closing parts of the lot to the public."
There will be about the same number of public parking spaces downtown after the city administrative offices are built as there are right now, but there will be those 60-some new employees working in the new building. Plus, there is anticipated additional traffic over the next year with the opening of retail spots and restaurants in the ('s new headquarters) plus a new cluster a few yards away where the used to sit.
City Manager Michael Frank said city employees used to work in the city's bungalows along Sherman Avenue and before it was remodeled "and we're bringing back way fewer employees to downtown than were there then. That said, we're working on developing additional parking options."
Novato Police Captain Dave Jeffries said marked and unmarked police vehicles will be moved to spots on the street, and there's a chance some rarely used vehicles normally stored in the station's underground lot could be moved elsewhere.
"We've identified some opportunities to increase parking and we're hoping to accomplish most of our impact relatively easily by freeing up enough space around here," Jeffries said.
Several new spots could be created on the west side of Machin, Jeffries said. There are a couple of locations where the curb juts out into the street to separate sections of the on-street parking. He said taking out those extended curbs and doing some restriping on the pavement could result in more parking spaces.
The office building construction company would use the existing pavement as a corp yard base and place trailers on the site, then strip down the building's footprint and begin excavating for the basement parking, Skinner said. It will take three or four months for the parking lot to be completed before the top two floors of the building can start to take shape, he said.
"We're looking all over the downtown area to find underutilized parking or areas to develop additional parking," Skinner said.
Frank said negotiations are taking place with the owners of several nearby privately owned lots.
Coming up on Novato Patch: How do the Grant Avenue merchants and the Downtown Novato Business Association think this will work?