Columnists

Final Bus Stop Today as Parking Garage Opens

(The Times photo by Betsy Reason)
While the new Hamilton County government employee parking garage was being built, employees were shuttled to and from the vacant Riverview Hospital-owned parking. Shuttle pickup (by Janus and Boys & Girls Club buses in the morning and Noblesville Schools (above) buses every afternoon) was on Logan Street in front of the Hamilton County Government & Judicial Center.

Hamilton County government employees — who’ve been shuttled on buses from the vacant Riverview Hospital-owned parking lot on the west side of White River for the past year — have a new, covered and consolidated place to park.

The $11.5 million Hamilton County Parking Garage — that’s been under construction since May 2021 at the location of the county government-owned former surface lot used for Hamilton County Employee Parking at 225 N. Ninth St., in downtown Noblesville — opens during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. today.

“It’s a good view from the top floor,” said Hamilton County superintendent Steve Wood of the five-story garage, located in half of a city block on Clinton Street between Eighth and Ninth streets, about a block north (or three-minute walk) from the Hamilton County Government & Judicial Center and the Historic Courthouse. He said the new parking garage “should be a benefit to the whole community because it frees up a lot of parking spaces.”

Since construction began on the parking garage, county government employees have been using the county’s temporary park-and-ride offering.

Wood said about 65 county employees each morning and a few more in the evening, “when the weather’s bad,” took advantage of the free shuttles, from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. weekdays, then again at the close of business at 4:30 p.m., for the past year. Morning buses were provided by Janus Developmental Services and by the Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville, with county building and grounds employees as drivers. Evening buses were yellow school buses and were provided by Noblesville Schools.

The garage broke ground on Monday, May 10, 2021, and is opening today, on Friday, May 13, 2022. (Yes, Friday the 13th.)

The county shuttles also transported court juries, as well, 50 to 60 jurors a day, a couple of days a week. And those numbers have been growing since Covid restrictions have been lifted.

Employees will begin using the parking garage this afternoon with the last bus shuttles to run today.

(The Times photo by Betsy Reason)
The Hamilton County government employee parking garage (under construction above) opens today with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. at 8th and Clinton streets in downtown Noblesville.

“We’re ready. My staff’s wholeheartedly ready,” said Wood, 56, Noblesville, a 1984 graduate of Noblesville High School who has worked for the county for about 20 years, the past 11 years as superintendent.

Wood said the parking garage access badges are ready so that the 380+ employees can gain entry to the automated access control-entry points.

“We actually took 380 cards yesterday (Tuesday) and tested every card through each (parking) gate. We’re going to start handing those out today (Wednesday). On Friday afternoon, county employees may park there.”

“Through the week, the county parking garage is only for county employee parking. There are 380-some employees, plus jurors will come in to get a ticket and they’ll get it certified (validated) at the courts. Certain days of the week, we’ll have 100 jurors come in,” he said.

There are 483 parking spaces, but Wood counts 488 spaces, including tight areas where motorcycles can park.

“After government hours, (Hamilton County) Commissioners have deemed it would be free for public parking,” Wood said. That means the public can park in the new garage after 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays, every weekend 5 p.m. Fridays to 7 a.m. Mondays, plus holidays in which the county offices are closed.

He said the county will use a tracking system that will allow them to track when people are using the garage and how long they are staying. “The building is full of cameras,” Wood said. “We’re videoing everything that happens, all corners of that building.”

Steve Wood

“During operational hours, obviously it’s closed (to the public); that’s the reason it was built, right? Is to allow for these people not to be parking on the street and get them confined into one location for parking. That should open up a lot of parking around town,” Wood said. “Park anywhere they like, first-come, first-serve.”

The garage features an elevator on the southwest side, two stairwells, all camera up, well lit, motion lighting. We hope the city and the community and everybody gets good usage of it after hours. During regular hours, it is only open to the government county employees,” he reiterated.

The elevator is monitored and goes to a call station.

The plan was to build the fifth floor later, but Wood took it to the County Council to go ahead and build the fifth floor now, rather than later.

Wood talked about the project. “Panel walls with brick saved a lot of money and saved a lot of time,” he said. It’s the first panel building I’ve ever done. It was kind of neat. The brick inlays. You see how well it looks, right? It fits in. We tried to go as close as we could with the old Courthouse looks. And I think it does pretty good … We tried to match the facades the best we could.”

As far as staying on task and on time, Wood said the price of the building didn’t come in any higher.

“We ordered everything ahead of time with the BOT (build-operate-transfer) contract. It stuck to a price; there’s no additional cost … By getting everything ordered ahead of time, that saved us a lot of issues, saved us a lot of money, a lot of time,” Wood said.

During construction, he said, when they were digging the foundation, they found concrete bunkers, foundations, nothing really hazardous, but all representing the history of the property, which has been an old power plant, a lumber company, homes and Metro bank. “We got to see a lot of history,” he said.

Hamilton County historian David Heighway shared the history of the property area. There was a grist mill there in 1866. It was the Evans & Sohl flour mill in 1883. In the early 1890s, it was the Metzger lumber company. It was the Pinnell-Dulin Lumber Company between 1890s and the 1970s. The property was changed to parking in the 1980s, he said.

Wood, who is thrilled with the opening of the new garage, has heard a lot of positive comments, including from adjacent neighbors Rowland Printing and Bolden’s Cleaners, whose businesses are across the street. Business owner Joan Bolden often made small talk with Wood when she came in daily at 5 a.m. to open the dry-cleaning business and came outside to watch the early-morning construction work. Wood said, “She was very complimentary.”

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.

Want MORE?

What: Ribbon-cutting ceremony for the five-story $11.5 million Hamilton County Parking Garage.

When: 10 a.m. today (Friday, May 13).

Where: On Clinton Street, between Eighth and Ninth streets, downtown Noblesville.

Public parking hours: 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays and 5 p.m. Fridays-7 a.m. Mondays on the weekends.