PRESS-REPUBLICAN: CITY PARKING STUDY SAYS REPLACE SPOTS NIXED BY DEVELOPMENT
City parking study says replace spots nixed by development
The question now is how to meet that challenge.
“Any development in that lot will change downtown significantly,” said Jon Forster of Carl Walker Inc., a parking consulting company from Michigan that is compiling the study, at Wednesday night’s forum on downtown parking.
“There are 289 parking spaces in that lot, and any development will have to replace any spaces that are removed.”
PARKING COMES FIRST
The Durkee Street lot is the focal point of development within the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
The city received a $10 million grant from the state last year to pursue development plans through the DRI.
Carl Walker Inc. was brought by the city in to do a thorough parking study before any definitive development plans for the property are rolled out.
Mayor Colin Read said it’s crucial to understand the parking needs before any development starts.
The city may see paid parking of some kind in the future, he said.
“The difficult part will be to find a way to transition to a combination of free parking and convenience parking at a modest price, but I’m reassured that this is what other cities have done, and our consultant can show us how,” Read said.
Forster explained that there are about 1,200 parking spaces throughout the downtown corridor.
A total of 444 are in public lots, including the 289 in the Durkee Street lot. Another 677 are on-street spots, and there are 394 mostly unused spots in the parking lot off Dock Street behind the D&H building.
The study showed that the heaviest parking use was around noon on weekdays, as about 85 percent of citywide parking spaces were full. Only about 55 percent of downtown spaces were full in the evenings over the span of the study.
It included responses from 570 people who filled out a parking survey the city had commissioned.
Forster said that finding a spot downtown is not a significant problem.
“Most people said they can find a place,” he said.
“They may have to circle around once or twice, but they can find a place.”
Forster said the city has good signage indicating where parking is allowed on streets, but could use more signs pointing where lots are.
He also said that parking in the downtown corridor is pretty much “laissez-faire,” as there is no real police enforcement for those overstaying their time limits in some areas.
“Parking is a support service there to maintain customer service,” Forster said. “It’s not really there to make money.”
The Downtown Parking District, a special assessment district made up of downtown business owners, pays the city about $65,000 per year to keep the Durkee Street lot plowed and cleaned.
Forster said that in addition to replacing any spots that are eliminated by a development in the Durkee Street lot, additional spaces must also be added to accommodate the new development.
“You might have to make some adjustments to the special assessment district,” Forster said.
The city will have a number of options to consider when deciding on a long-term parking plan.
About 100 spaces could be added to the Durkee Street lot by creating angled spaces on its west side, and on the west side of Durkee Street. Those spaces could be used toward replacing any taken up by development in the main lot.
There is a private parking garage already within the Durkee Street lot, but the top two floors are open to the public for free, which includes about 70 spaces,
“It’s the best-kept secret in Plattsburgh,” downtown property owner David Merkel said.
A pedestrian bridge could be built to link the Dock Street lot closer to downtown, or a shuttle service could be provided.
“You have the capacity there, but it’s just not as close to downtown as people would like,” Forster said.
Creating public-private partnerships between the city and private-lot owners could also work.
Unused buildings downtown could also be demolished to create more spaces.
About half of the people responding to the surveys said they would be open to the idea of paid parking downtown, if it will mean better access.
“The best thing to do is to be flexible so when an opportunity arises you can adjust,” Forster said.
Read said the city will continue to study the issue before making any firm plans.
“I’m impressed with the breadth of the consultant’s experience and the insights he has on our challenges and opportunities,” he said.
“He has demonstrated to us some ways in which we can meet the state’s DRI objective to do more with the Durkee Street area and yet also have better parking downtown.”
Read said he expects a number of recommendations in about three weeks.
Email Joe LoTemplio: firstname.lastname@example.org
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