Solutions Anyone?

In yesterday’s piece, “Another Bad Decision”, we questioned whether it would be wise for the GFPS District to purchase the existing historic Campfire Girls’ property at 1925 2nd Avenue South adjacent to Great Falls High School, demolish the building and construct a small parking lot for approximately 20 cars at an estimated cost of $10K per stall.

Most people commenting were outraged that the school district would be so foolish as to spend $100K of taxpayer’s money to buy the property and then tear down the historic structure and build a parking lot, another $100K, so small that it “would hardly make a dent” in the parking shortage at Great Falls High. Others were concerned about losing a valuable part of the school’s history. A couple of angry readers even commented, “don’t bring us problems, bring us solutions”, and “Put up, or Shut up”.

“To recap, Great Falls High has had a parking problem for at least 50 years, I know because I attended GFHS. This condition has caused homeowners in the area a good deal of angst for a long time.”

To recap, Great Falls High has had a parking problem for at least 50 years, I know because I attended GFHS. This condition has caused homeowners in the area a good deal of angst for a long time.

During the GFHS Master Planning process, the District floated several half-baked ideas which they felt could be solutions to the parking dilemma. One was to purchase a residential property on the northeast corner of 20th Street and 4th Avenue South, tear the existing home down and construct a surface parking lot. Another idea, and one that is now planned for execution, is to tear up a substantial portion of the northeast corner of the original campus to build a significantly larger surface lot.

Keep in mind that the entire 4-block original campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and not just the historic building itself. It’s a bad plan to make it look like Walmart.

Asphalt parking lots by their very nature are not environmentally friendly. They act as “heat sinks” which can cause increased loads on building cooling systems and they increase water run-off because they do not allow the ground to absorb water. Additionally, surface lots create stress to landscape materials, something that gives a unique character to the GFHS campus. Another bad idea.

Another “brilliant” district solution was to create parking behind the south scoreboard at Memorial Stadium which would necessitate the removal of a good portion of the wrought iron fence and brick columns with lichen covered capitals. Another bad idea.

OK, it’s time to “put up, or shut up”! Here’s the only solution short of buying a half, or a full block of houses adjacent to GFHS and tearing them down to create an “asphalt jungle”. It’s called structured parking, or what’s commonly called a parking structure.

Some will no doubt say: Where do we put a parking structure, how much will it cost, how will we control student shenanigans that could take place out of view?

As for the location. With the installation of the artificial surface already installed in Memorial Stadium, football players can practice on the playing field which frees up the practice field, one whole city block of flat property. The District retorts, but we have to have the track field events there. Not necessarily. Why not construct a softball field in Kranz Park for the school teams and neighborhood children? Given that the layout of a softball field is very close to the layout of field events, a portion of Kranz Park could serve multiple uses.

Of course costs could be lower in Great Falls, especially it the project was competitively bid. The cost of structured parking at last estimate by Carl Walker, Inc, a leading structured parking construction firm was $16,411 per stall in Denver, CO. For a 300 space parking structure that would total approximately $5M.

In 2007, Stadium High School in Tacoma, WA constructed a 200 space two level parking structure. According to Megan Lopez, administrator at SHS with whom I had a recent telephone conversation, their new facility uses video monitoring and routine patrolling and has experienced a minimal number of security issues. Students using the parking structure pay $50 for the entire school year which provides an ongoing revenue stream for the school. And on the roof deck there are 4 tournament tennis courts. Wow! In a city with a climate that deteriorates ground level tennis courts faster than we can repair them, Great Falls could certainly benefit from this innovative design. The court deck could even be covered with an air supported enclosure. Wow again!

Now, do you think the District could find $5M to solve the long-standing parking problem at GFHS. Maybe part of the $22M they plan to spend to upgrade all the classrooms in the historic building exclusive of mechanical, electrical and plumbing line items?

In conclusion, I have presented criticisms of the District’s plans, and solutions to most of the neighborhood councils for the past several years.

Posted by Philip M. Faccenda

Philip M. Faccenda is an AIA award-winning architect and planner. He is the Editor-in-Chief of E-City Beat.

Reader interactions

3 Replies to “Solutions Anyone?”

  1. […] Sadly, we have to report that the Great Falls Public School District, with a vote of 7 to 0, effectively decided to demolish the historic Hi School Store (Campfire building) at 1925 2nd Avenue South to make room for a small surface parking lot. With unanimous support of your elected school board trustees, the district’s administration can execute the buy-sell agreement dated 1-17-18 for $100,000 and move forward with their ill-advised attempt to solve the parking problem at Great Falls High School. (see my article, “Solutions Anyone”) […]


  2. I suggest that they charge for parking with a quarterly parking permit. That would eliminate those who don’t really need to be driving to school. Then take that money and invest it in metal detectors for the entrances and wages for armed guards for school security. The children are worth it and two problems are solved.


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