City officials say repairs to Medford's two parking garages could cost $1 million less than the $2.5 million estimate they received two years ago.

City officials say repairs to Medford's two parking garages could cost $1 million less than the $2.5 million estimate they received two years ago.

"I'm expecting that it would come in less," said Bill Hoke, interim city manager and executive director of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency.

A more competitive construction industry has given city officials reason to believe repair costs have the potential of being lower than expected.

The cost of repairing the parking structure was among the issues that sparked a falling out between the city and the urban renewal district, prompting the City Council to assume oversight of the district in April 2010.

The city earlier estimated a sealing job required for the parking garage on Riverside Avenue and Sixth Street could cost $1.5 million, but now anticipate it could fall in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. The sealing of the concrete decking was the single biggest expense in the $2.5 million in estimated repairs for the two downtown parking structures.

Hoke said the potential savings could fluctuate wildly over the next six months or year before the project actually goes out to bid, so he cautioned that the lower cost was not locked in.

The city recently spent $61,000 to seal an exposed concrete deck surrounding the Evergreen parking garage between Main Street and 8th Street. The deck was designed to be enclosed by a residential complex that was never built, exposing it to rain.

Hoke said the city bought its own materials to seal the concrete to save money and hired a firm to apply the materials to the surface so it would no longer leak. The city will attempt to use the same cost-cutting approaches in other projects, Hoke said.

If city officials see a savings on parking garage repairs, it could free up more money for other projects on the city's wish list.

The city budgeted $2.9 million for the parking garage repair as part of $12.5 million the city has left to spend in the MURA budget.

Another $1.6 million has been set aside for repairs to parking lots throughout the city.

The urban renewal district has also set aside $2 million to be used as an incentive to attract a developer to finish the Evergreen project.

The Evergreen parking structure, at Main and Fir streets, was originally designed as the center of a mixed-use development known as Bella Vita that was stalled by lawsuits and the economic downturn. Problems with the structure exist in part because residential and commercial units were never built around the garage, leaving the concrete slab exposed to the elements and allowing water to seep into cracks.

Engineering analysis indicates the water leaks didn't compromise the structure of the building.

After subtracting parking maintenance and developer incentive, urban renewal has about $6 million left over for other projects. Among the projects identified are rehabilitating Hawthorne and Alba parks, funding a portion of a new downtown fire station, rebuilding the intersection at Fourth Street and Central Avenue, funding for the remodeling of the historic Holly Theatre and a facade improvement program.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.