Vice Mayor Kent Shafer said he’s excited to take the next step to fulfill his 2013 campaign promise to improve the downtown Delaware’s parking system.
City Council gave some positive and critical feedback to a parking study conducted by Columbus-based MKSK, an urban design and planning firm at a work session Monday night. Shafer said action should be taken now as the city continues to grow.
“Ultimately what we have to consider is increasing capacity,” he said in his opening remarks. “… We want to make sure we got an action plan.”
MKSK presented key findings with about 50 recommendations to improve the city’s parking system and policy, signage and wayfinding, pedestrian experience, meter strategies and core parking lots.
City staff have identified which recommendations would require substantial input from the community. The city will have a formal resolution to approve an “implementation matrix” at its Feb. 27 meeting. The public is invited to comment.
The matrix lists each recommendation to be implemented, categorized as short-, mid- or long-term.
“Short-term goals we hope to accomplish within a year,” Assistant City Manager Jackie Walker said. “Mid-term is within three years … long-terms be would be more than three years. Long-terms is more if, of be prepared in case an opportunity would present itself. We know that in three-plus years we may want to do ‘X’ but let’s say that something happens in two years and because we have this long-term goal we’re actually ready to move on it.”
“So for the mid- and long-term goals we want to be able to set actual timelines for those because they are a little bit further out,” she said.
Once approved, the city could implement each recommendation, sometimes presenting specific items to the Parking and Safety Committee and Council if legislative approval is required, Shafer said.
Additionally, a citizen advocacy group consisting of downtown customers and business owners would be formed to work with city officials on some of the recommendations.
Economic development specialist Kelsey Scott was appointed to handle the public information and education campaign to inform the community about parking improvements in the downtown.
The city’s last parking study was in 2006. There was no specific mention in its 2008 comprehensive plan in 2008 but did stressed the importance of the downtown.
MKSK conducted the study earlier last year using drones for aerial photography, field observations and surveys. More than 550 people have taken part of the study, according to Justin Goodwin, an urban planner at MKSK.
The retail market is changing, he said, with more people seeking authentic and quality places for shopping and dining.
“It’s more experience-based,” Goodwin said.
The firm’s analyses found that prime spots at city-owned lots on Winter, Franklin and William streets were often over utilized, especially during events such as First Friday, while lots and on-street spaces located on the periphery of downtown were underutilized.
“It’s human nature to get as close to your destination,” Goodwin said.
In addition, downtown employees may contribute to lower turnover rates because they utilized the three lots’ 10-hour spaces. Goodwin said providing 10-hour parking was a good idea to get employees from parking on Sandusky Street but the lots have become just as desired for patrons.
One recommendation included converting 10-hour spots to three hours or less within the downtown core — particularly at the Winter and Franklin lots. But 10-hour meters could be relocated to outlying streets.
Survey results indicated that 61 percent of the people said they come to downtown more than once a week with more than half that said parking was difficult. More than half said they spend more than two hours in downtown. Many survey participants suggested centralized parking such as a parking garage to alleviate the situation.
Council members discussed about paid parking along Sandusky Street, new partnerships with the Delaware Area Transit Agency and the current fine structure.
Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said parking was an issue when she owned a downtown business in 1985. But said it could be problematic for downtown-goers who may want to dine and see a movie at the Strand Theatre.
MKSK had recommended to reintroduce paid parking along Sandusky Street and increase the allotted time-restriction to three hours with the third hour at a higher rate.
Councilman George Hellinger said he supported kiosks because it provides programming to differentiate rates at various times throughout the day and year. For example, the city could program the kiosks to not charge drivers for the month of December to encourage holiday shopping at downtown businesses.
Shafer said he does not see paid parking along Sandusky happening over the next three years because a majority of downtown business owners are not in favor of it.
But Genti Koci, the general manager of Opa Grill and Tavern, favored the recommendation. He would like to see a fees for meters to gradually increase each hour similar to parking at airports. He added that downtown needed to become more bicycle friendly.
Councilwoman Lisa Keller said paid parking on Sandusky may deter people from meeting in downtown for appointments or meetings to avoid a $40 parking fine — including for first-time offenders. One of the recommendations does require the review of the city’s fine structure.
Denny Schooley, executive director of DATA, said its willing to work with the city to develop a route, more park and rides or extend services for city events such as First Friday.
In other business, Council approved the final development plan for Midway Structural Pipe and Supply Inc.’s potential facility at Pittsburgh Drive and South Section Line Road. The owner plans to relocate the business from Columbus.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.
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