A crumbling garage in downtown Troy threatens parking for office tenants

This article was originally published in the Albany Business Review.

The pinch for parking in downtown Troy during the workday was already getting tight. But with the city's biggest parking garage falling apart, it could get even worse.

The Uncle Sam parking garage has been partially closed off as its owner, David Bryce, works to repair loose concrete and water damage. Closing the garage jeopardizes a good chunk of its 800 parking spaces in the heart of downtown.

The garage was oversold at 150% due to high demand from downtown office tenants, Bryce said last spring.

Parking capacity in the city remains a big concern for existing and potential commercial tenants downtown. Troy has drawn video game studios, software developers, architecture and pharmaceutical firms.

Todd Stevens, a commercial broker with Cresa who represents tenants, has said parking is now more of an obstacle for his clients.

"In the past, there's always been enough parking, just a matter of where and what the cost is," Stevens told the Business Review in March. "Now it is getting to a point where it’s about quantity as well as the other issues."

Last year, Troy added and relocated parking meters downtown to fill in the patchwork of street parking rules and reduce confusion. The city at the time was also exploring how to add parking spots in existing lots and on wider streets.

There are around 6,000 total parking spaces downtown, the majority of which are off-street, according to a 2016 study.

So the garage represents a significant portion of the parking available to downtown office tenants. Building a new parking structure has long been out of the question because of the cost. Now, rebuilding the city's biggest garage may be a necessity.

A new report on the condition of the garage released this month deemed it "unsafe." Bryce Properties LLC was required by state law to commission the structural inspection and provide the results to the city of Troy.

StructureCare, the firm that conducted the study, sent a letter to city officials Sunday saying it was working with Bryce to tackle immediate repairs and open up more of the garage by week's end.

The Times Union was first to report the study results on the garage. A report by NewsChannel 13 in December highlighted safety issues at the garage after a concrete beam came crashing down from the ceiling.

The Uncle Sam parking garage is 46 years old, well into the end of a typical garage lifespan of 30-50 years. Bryce added an additional level to the garage in 2010. Most of the maintenance issues are on the lower levels, according to the condition report.

Bryce is one of the biggest landlords downtown. He owns the Troy Atrium, Frear Building, 500 Federal St. office building and many others in the vicinity.

"Troy’s parking inventory does need to grow significantly. Demand has been unbelievable," Bryce said Wednesday. His tenants continue to add employees, and he plans to build even more commercial space in the near future.

"Over the past 20 years, we have begun to understand there is no money in free parking," Bryce added, noting the Uncle Sam garage is used heavily by visitors to Troy's farmers market, Rockin' on the River concerts and the annual Victorian Stroll.

"Clearly, as we go forward, we have to rethink our business model. Business models aside, we feel we are tasked with providing this public benefit," Bryce said.

Bryce at one point planned to build a new, 300-space garage on a surface lot next to the offices he owns at 500 Federal St. It's unclear if he would still pursue that project when the Uncle Sam garage needs significant work to remain viable.