When all else fails: park in Structure 3

When a student has driven around and around, with no parking space in sight, the best advice is: go to Parking Structure 3.

This poses a bit of a walk to the center of the campus, Structure 3 being located at the extreme west end, at Southwest 12th Avenue, between Southwest Montgomery and Market streets.

But Dan Zalkow, parking manager, says, “We have yet to fill up the structure completely at any point.”

Structure 3 represents the most modern of Portland State’s parking buildings. A complete renovation and expansion were finished at the end of last December.

In some ways, Structure 3 would seem to be more attractive to parkers. Term parking permits are cheaper than in structures 1 and 2. The full-time usage cost for 1 and 2 is $222 a term. For Structure 3 it’s $210, a savings of 5 percent.

The only answer has to be a variation of retail location motto No. 2 – MWW or “momma won’t walk.”

(Retail principle No. 1 is “location, location, location.”) The walk from Structure 3 wouldn’t seem that much of an obstacle, being only three blocks plus one narrow park block to Smith Memorial Student Union. The pedestrian does have to cross a somewhat busy street, Southwest 12th Avenue.

Students have voted against that walk with their pocketbooks. Structures 1 and 2 are currently sold out of full-time permits. Parking Structure 1 is located directly across Southwest Broadway from Neuberger Hall and an intersection crosswise from SMSU. Structure 2 resides directly across Broadway from Cramer Hall.

Structure 3 has another advantage for the short-term parker. Unlike 1 and 2 – which are accessible during the day only by permit – 3 takes paid parkers on an hourly or daily basis. Only one other interior structure takes paid hourly parkers, the University Center Building garage.

There are special permits for students in campus housing. Student residents can buy a one-term permit in West Hall parking for $222, or $666 a year.

Richard Piekenbrock, university architect, explained why Structure 3 was renovated and expanded.

“We needed to expand existing parking,” he said. “Also, the existing building was not well-designed from a seismic bracing point of view.”

The seismic issue was of paramount importance, requiring a strengthening of the outer walls.

“In the existing building, the floors were all concrete,” Piekenbrock said. “The new structure is steel frame. Steel doesn’t put as much weight on the structure.” The building still retains its concrete decks.

Structure 3 now constitutes a model of modernity. The ground floor is designed so no vehicles are visible from the street, as well as to present an aesthetic expanse of glass.

An elevator was added to conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Parking Structure 1 has its own elevator. Structure 2 has elevator access using the fourth floor skybridge from Cramer or SMSU elevators.

The renovation of Structure 3 added one floor, so it now rises five floors above ground level, plus has a basement. This permitted an addition of 174 spaces, giving the building a total of about 985 spaces. The building is 250 feet long and 200 feet wide.

The project required about three years of planning and execution. It cost $6.3 million and came in $300,000 under budget. Its 30-year bonds will be paid off from parking revenue.

Although Structure 3 seems to give Portland State a limited safety valve in terms of parking capacity, that cushion will not exist indefinitely, in the opinion of Mike Irish, facilities manager.

“We have to develop a parking strategy,” Irish said. With enrollment continuing to grow, he estimated that if all available parking were full, the present parking still would provide only enough spaces for 65 percent of the students.

“It costs about the same to provide a parking space as it does to buy a car,” Irish said, putting the cost at $20,000 to $25,000 a space.

Structures 1 and 2 and the Ondine parking garage are sold out on permits. Structure 3 still has permits and there are some scattered availabilities of less-than-full-time permits. A bulletin board at the parking window on the ground floor of Neuberger Hall shows what is available and the various costs.

If a student has a permit, that permit will find an available space, although it may be in Structure 3.

“We sell approximately 3,500 student permits in a wide variety of types,” Zalkow said. “We sell close to 1,000 evening permits.”

Full day permits secure a space from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. week days, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. All parking structures are free after 7 p.m. The “afternoon” permits for $111 allow the holder to park after noon. The “evening” permits at $46 allow parking after 3:30 p.m.

“Our peak period is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and particularly between 11:30 and 1:30,” Zalkow said.

The permit system is designed so there is a space always available for persons with a permit. Parking structures are open 24 hours a day.

Zalkow said after 7 p.m. week days and 5 p.m. Saturdays there is normally ample space in the parking structures. The campus area also includes a number of street meters and lot meters in addition to the multi-level structures.