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Parking lot closes at Palm and Nipomo Streets in SLO; new structure to take its place

A rendering of the Cultural Arts District Parking Structure planned for downtown SLO.
City of San Luis Obispo
A rendering of the Cultural Arts District Parking Structure planned for downtown SLO.

As of today, the city of San Luis Obispo has closed the parking lot on Palm and Nipomo Streets downtown. They'll demolish the lot to make way for the new five-level Cultural Arts District Parking Structure set to open in late 2025. KCBX's Benjamin Purper spoke with city engineer Madeline Kacsinta about what residents can expect.

Give us an overview of what this project is about. What's the point, and what are the benefits?

The Cultural Arts District Parking Structure marks a huge step towards enhancing the vibrancy and accessibility of the cultural arts district in downtown San Luis Obispo. This parking structure will provide 397 parking spaces, which will provide ample parking for residents, visitors who are wanting to come explore the Natural History Museum, Children's Museum, Museum of Art, or the future new SLO Repertory Theater, which will be built on the same location as the parking structure.

Now that the existing lot at Palm and Nipomo is set to close, what happens now? What will people see going forward?

We have a contractor coming in that will demolish the existing parking lot to make way for the future parking structure. The new structure won't be open until likely the end of 2025, and it's a phased project. So after the demolition of the parking lot happens, we will bring in a new contractor in the beginning of November, likely, and we will have a groundbreaking ceremony.

As the project ramps up, this will actually mark the beginning of the vertical construction. Some of the larger machinery will come in during that phase, so that'll kind of be the bigger groundbreaking that everyone will really see coming online. And then after that, you'll see the final phase of construction, which includes street improvements, so improvements along Palm and Monterey Streets. All of that together will be completed at the end of 2025, is the estimate.

Some residents have expressed concern that such a big project is bound to cause disruption. What do you say to that?

The city is reviewing any traffic control plans for if the contractor is expecting deliveries or has a lot of trucks lining up for construction. We'll be trying to mitigate any delays to the public that impact any traffic delays and we will be alerting the public of that as well. They'll probably, with the vertical construction of the parking structure, experience noise. That's likely going to occur, and the hours of operation for this is 7:00a.m. to 4:00p.m., so any construction too early in the morning or late in the evening will not be happening. So if you hear anything going on between non-working hours, feel free to alert the city and we can take care of that for you.

A lot of residents are concerned about dust, and we have the contractor working on making sure that dust is minimized. They're using recycled water to keep the site water down while they're doing their grading work, so dust should be minimized during construction.

Anything else you want to add?

We're excited to start the project. In addition to the 397 parking spaces, we're also going to be bringing online a lot of [electric vehicle] charging stations. This project will double or over-double the EV charging stations that the city provides currently. So that's a huge benefit, and we're looking forward to enhancing that area of our downtown.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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