As I promised in my last NPR Note, I’ll continue to comment from time to time on issues I believe are important for us, as citizens, to consider. I have every confidence that our new mayor and city council will do their best to address the issues that come before them.
My last NPR Note about parking was eight years ago. Things have changed since then. An article in yesterday’s Washington Post and some recent posts I read on Facebook about parking for folks with mobility issues made me wonder whether or not I should weigh in on the issue again. Lets take a look:
The downtown has continued to come back to life. The city was able to interest a grocery store owner to move downtown. The Hacienda Hotel has now opened and needs a significant number of spots in the Swanson lot for people staying at the hotel. The old post office across from Orange Lake now hosts three thriving businesses as well as a church on Sundays!
The city also made some improvements to deal with parking along the way. Both the Gloria Swanson and the Thomas Meighan parking lots have been reconfigured to add parking spaces. Additionally, the city built a 350 spot, four story, parking garage right behind the new Keiser University and Comfort Inn buildings on US 19. Electric shuttles run between the parking garage and the historic downtown on weekends.
There are still some parking challenges facing the city. There is plenty of parking, just not always in the most convenient places. Here are four parking challenges that the city can address:
There is a need for dedicated golf cart parking. Golf carts have become incredibly popular over the past few years. Parking a golf cart in a regular pull-in space seems to be quite a waste of space. Our parallel parking spaces may offer a solution. If the city reconfigured a few parallel spaces to be pull-in golf cart spots, the downtown would actually gain parking spaces. Two, or even three golf carts can easily fit in one parallel parking space.
There is a need for more handicap parking. The city has handicap parking in the city parking lots, but I can’t think of any of the parallel spots downtown that are so designated. This might be worth taking a fresh look at.
There is a need to repurpose private parking lots for better uses. A perfect example is the Bourbon on Main private parking lot between BOM and Kazu’s Sushi. Given that the Thomas Meighan public parking lot is mere steps from this private lot, wouldn’t it make more sense to remove the parking requirement for BOM and let them repurpose the lot for something other than under-utilized parking? A new store or restaurant between the two restaurants or an outdoor patio for larger parties than can fit in BOM’s current outdoor patio are just two possibilities that would be possible without the city’s current parking mandate.
There are similar opportunities in the “Palm District”, the part of Main Street west of the bridge. Quite a few of the buildings along this stretch, particularly on the south side of the street, could easily lose their existing surface parking and have customers use the ample parking in the parking garage instead. Imagine if the 6000 square foot parking lot in front of the old Adamek Lumber building (the two story building about half way from the bridge to 19) could be repurposed for a new set of shops or one or more restaurants.
There is a need to expand the DART shuttle service. The shuttles currently run Thursday-Sunday. Expanding evening service to additional days of the week could easily solve evening parking issues for downtown bars and restaurants. Ideally, both shuttles would run each night, allowing for a maximum of a 10 minute wait to get a shuttle at one of the stops. The council will be going into budget season shortly, so now is the time for them to think about allocating the necessary funding to expand the DART service.
The downtown continues to become more pedestrian friendly and less car centric. I believe that is a great trend and I’d love to see all of our businesses easier to access without having to depend on a car.
If any of these ideas strike you as something that would be good, please reach out to the mayor and council and let your thoughts be known.