Get­ting park­ing Squared up

Mov­ing for­ward on down­town park­ing study

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - SAN­DRA BRANDS sbrands@cov­

Com­plaints have been heard about the park­ing — or lack of park­ing — avail­able on the Square in down­town Cov­ing­ton.

The re­cent ad­di­tions of Your Pie and Sweet River on Wash­ing­ton Street have brought more con­sumers down­town. With that comes both new tax rev­enue and new ve­hic­u­lar con­ges­tion.

“We have had ex­po­nen­tial growth in our down­town area,” said Ralph Staffins, Pres­i­dent of the New­ton-Cov­ing­ton Cham­ber of Com­merce. “This growth is some­thing we need to be proud of. With growth comes new chal­lenges. We look

for­ward to work­ing with the city of Cov­ing­ton to meet th­ese op­por­tu­ni­ties head on.

“Dis­cussing park­ing around the Square is a pos­i­tive thing in our eyes,” agreed Trey San­ders, Pub­lic Re­la­tions Man­ager for the city. “It means the square is vi­brant and peo­ple are shop­ping and eat­ing in the heart of Cov­ing­ton.

“There is a per­cep­tion that park­ing is an is­sue around the Square and it re­ally isn’t,” he said. “Peo­ple want to park di­rectly in front of the store they want shop in or the restau­rant they want to eat at. If they are will­ing to walk a block or less, they can typ­i­cally find a park­ing place with ease.”

But oth­ers dis­agree. Coun­cil mem­bers Chris Smith, Post 1 East, and Hawnethia Wil­liams, Post 2 West, re­ported at a coun­cil meet­ing last month that mer­chants on the Square had se­ri­ous con­cerns about the lack of park­ing.

The con­cerns are not new, and last year, the Cov­ing­ton Park­ing Au­thor­ity com­mis­sioned Kim­ley Horn to study and make rec­om­men­da­tions about im­prov­ing park­ing on or around the Square. The study was sub­mit­ted to the city coun­cil in Septem­ber last year. (See story, “What to do with down­town park­ing,” at http://www.cov­ ar­chives/60565/.)

“They [Kim­ley Horn] de­tailed our cur­rent park­ing con­di­tion and gave us ideas for fu­ture im­prove­ment, if needed,” San­ders said.

He added that Mayor Ron­nie John­ston, City Man­ager Leigh Anne Knight and Plan­ning and Zon­ing Di­rec­tor Randy Vin­son will re­visit the study and talk to the con­sul­tants. They are plan­ning to hold a town hall meet­ing to dis­cuss op­tions mov­ing for­ward, he said.

“We hope to have that meet­ing some­time in April,” San­ders said.

The study showed that, while park­ing on the Square, and in the pub­lic lot north of the Square, dur­ing the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. may be dif­fi­cult, there are un­der­uti­lized park­ing ar­eas nearby, in­clud­ing 319 park­ing spots on the street within two blocks of the Square and 142 spa­ces in the First Bap­tist Church park­ing deck.

“There are plans to cre­ate golf cart park­ing in spa­ces where cars can’t fit,” San­ders said.

Kim­ley Horn’s rec­om­men­da­tions in­cluded in­stalling di­rec­tional signs di­rect­ing peo­ple to nearby pub­lic park­ing, es­tab­lish­ing park­ing time lim­its on the Square and on ad­ja­cent streets, adopt­ing fee-based park­ing around the Square and, if needed, build­ing ad­di­tional park­ing south­west of the Square.

The changes would be bro­ken up into four phases. The first phase was to in­stall signs for pedes­trian and ve­hi­cle traf­fic di­rect­ing peo­ple to fa­cil­i­ties and pub­lic park­ing. Cap­i­tal costs were es­ti­mated at $29,500.

San­ders said, it is too early to tell how suc­cess­ful they have been. How­ever, he said, com­ments about the signs has been fa­vor­able.

“The new signs are part of the education about other pub­lic park­ing close by,” Staffins said. “I think this education is part of the so­lu­tion to let­ting peo­ple know there’s park­ing close by the Square.”

Phase two would be to es­tab­lish park­ing time lim­its in and around the Square. It is es­ti­mated to run $25,000 in cap­i­tal costs with an­nual op­er­at­ing costs of $73,000 for two en­force­ment per­son­nel.

In the draft of the park­ing study, Kim­ley Horn said, “The ex­ist­ing park­ing op­er­a­tions in­clude free on-street, off-street pub­lic, and off­street pri­vate fa­cil­i­ties with­out time lim­its or en­force­ment. The great­est park­ing oc­cu­pancy ex­ists around the square where bou­tique retail pro­motes quick turnover, while restau­rants re­quire more spa­ces for longer pe­ri­ods of time. In some cases, em­ploy­ees are park­ing in prime park­ing spa­ces around the Square, leav­ing less avail­able spa­ces for vis­i­tors and pa­trons.”

The re­port fur­ther states that if park­ing oc­cu­pan­cies re­main at 65 per­cent or higher af­ter time-lim­ited park­ing is in­sti­tuted, the park­ing au­thor­ity should con­sider adopt­ing phase three and four.

Phase three would be to start charg­ing for park­ing on the Square while re­tain­ing time lim­ited park­ing within one block of the square. The cost of this phase is es­ti­mated to be be­tween $96,000 and $190,000 in cap­i­tal costs.

As ex­ist­ing and fu­ture de­vel­op­ments come into the his­toric down­town area, the fi­nal phase would be to build park­ing south­west of the square, which could run be­tween $800,000 and $4 mil­lion in cap­i­tal costs. An­nual op­er­at­ing costs would be an ad­di­tional 20 per­cent of the con­struc­tion costs.

Bryan Fazio | The Cov­ing­ton News

Mo­torists travel the Square look­ing for park­ing spa­ces Satur­day af­ter­noon.

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