Beginning in July, Burlington will do something about the portions of its busiest downtown parking garage that have been crumbling for years. The repairs should buy the Queen City enough time to develop community consensus around a more permanent plan of action for the aging structure.

The city-owned Marketplace Garage opened in 1976, the same year that the former Burlington Town Center Mall opened nearby. The Church Street Marketplace itself didn’t even exist; it wouldn’t open for five more years.

“The age of the parking garage structure is quite clear, and it’s the first thing people see when they’re visiting the city,” Burlington Public Works Commissioner Daniel Munteanu said at a commission meeting Wednesday night.

The Burlington Department of Public Works has known that for a long time. In 2014, it paid for studies that identified a wide range of necessary improvements.

“Between ’15 and ’18, a number of those improvements were made,” Jeff Padgett of the DPW said. “But it got to a point where the next sort of step of improvements was shutting the whole garage down. It was untenable. Then, we got into COVID.”

The department has scaled that down that next step, and it’ll go out to contractors for bids by the end of this week. The project is expected to cost $561,000. It’ll include removing and replacing part of the exterior brick facade, patching up portions of the parking decks and repairing support beams, among other things.

“This gets us to a point where we can start to make a decision in the next three to five years,” Padgett said. “Do we pour more money into this facility and keep it going? Do we tear it down and build a new facility? What makes the most sense for the community?”

Once the work starts, the marketplace garage will remain open — unlike what the city initially wanted to do with it. About 80 of the garage’s 345 parking spaces will be off-limits.

“This three-to-five-year piece of getting the garage to, at least, a more suitable state and then evaluating what’s next — I look forward to that discussion,” Public Works Commission Vice-Chair Peggy O’Neill-Vivanco said.

Padgett said Wednesday night that a brand-new replacement garage would probably cost $20 million dollars, while ongoing maintenance costs for the existing garage would add up to nearly that much. However, he also noted that the city already has money in its budget to start planning, right now, which of those paths it’ll take.

If the current timetable for the repair project holds up, the work will start in July. It would be complete sometime in October.