Paige Brown

Paige Brown

Gallatin city leaders are looking to purchase property along Smith Street for road improvements they say will be needed to accommodate additional traffic from a new courthouse and parking garage planned downtown. 

The Gallatin City Council unanimously approved a resolution last week authorizing Mayor Paige Brown to begin negotiating the purchase of the unspecified properties for the project with the total acquisition price not to exceed $600,000. An ordinance appropriating $3,000 for land appraisals also passed on first reading.

“Smith Street is going to need some improvements to keep from totally gridlocking downtown and to make traffic in and out of the judicial center function best,” Brown told the Gallatin News. “We’re not certain what those (improvements) might be, but we need to have some conversations with property owners to figure out if they are willing to sell their property and if so, for how much?”

Brown declined to specify which specific properties the city was looking at purchasing but said there were less than five in all.

Last summer, Gallatin city leaders verbally agreed to partner with Sumner County to build a parking garage downtown, which has been estimated to cost $9.4 million.

The multi-level structure would be built directly behind the Gallatin Public Library near the intersection of East Smith Street and South Water Avenue and would be constructed in conjunction with the new criminal justice center.

County officials involved with the project have previously stated the parking garage could include approximately 350 spaces for court traffic. Gallatin would likely pay for any additional spaces it wanted to add, which are estimated to cost approximately $20,000 each. 

According to Brown, the city is considering approximately 150 spaces and would take the cost of the improvements along Smith Street off the overall total price of the city’s portion of the parking garage.

“The parking garage certainly will provide some different access for the city,” Brown added. “Often times, the perception is that parking doesn’t exist (downtown). We kind of have proof that it does, but this may be an area that everybody can find easily and feel comfortable parking.”

In 2017, Sumner County leaders voted to hire Justice Planning Associates (JPA) to review the county’s criminal justice and court system facilities following several emergency funding requirements for building repair projects. The firm’s final report recommended five projects be completed in order to address the county’s current issues and future needs. 

The estimated costs for the projects include $78.4 million for the new courthouse in downtown Gallatin and $5 million to increase the jail’s capacity by 128 beds.

According to an estimated timeline for the project, the parking garage could open sometime next year followed by the new courthouse in late 2022 or early 2023. 

A second phase of the project, which would start sometime afterwards, would include renovation of the existing courthouse as well as an expansion of the sheriff’s office. The total price tag has been estimated to cost at least $20 million.

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