Steering committee to address parking issues in Riverside/Avondale

Moratorium on new business approvals suggested until study complete

The challenge of finding parking in one of the historic districts can seem, at times, to be nothing short of herculean. The analogy is appropriate because what the Jacksonville Community Planning Division may have originally thought to be a simple study could turn out to be a multi-faceted issue.
Former Avondale resident Martha Moore, project consultant for Ghyabi and Associates, is assisting the City of Jacksonville Planning and Development Department with the study which addresses current and future parking issues around The Shoppes of Avondale and the Park & King streets retail area.
Ghyabi and Associates limited the study to a 16-block area around The Shoppes of Avondale and a 19-block area around the intersection of Park and King. Those boundaries capture the commercial areas where visitors come and where residents have concerns.

The intent of the parking study is to 1) acquire data about existing parking and land use, 2) analyze parking utilization and turnover, 3) create a mobility circulation inventory in each area, 4) determine capacity for future parking demands and 5) develop actions, costs and strategies to implement the recommendations.
At the May 2 steering committee kickoff meeting the members brought up more concerns and issues than what Ghyabi and Associates were commissioned to study.
The committee is comprised of business owners and residents, and Kay Ehas, transportation chair for Riverside Avondale Preservation, was named chair for the steering committee, while Riverside attorney Tommy Donahoo took the vice chair position.

Moore said the study will take public safety into consideration as well, noting that the Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department (JFRD) requires a 20-foot street width to maneuver and that zoning codes adds another six feet per side for parallel parking. Many streets in the crowded Riverside grid have parking on both sides and Ehas explained why.
“College and Post purposely have parking on both sides [of the street] to slow traffic down,” she said.
“In addition, not every home has a garage and many of those older homes are now multi-family, which needs on-street parking.”
The study will identify those streets where parking both on and off-street is limited or restricted. “We know this is a built-up area and we need to take that into consideration,” said Calvin Burney, Sr., Planning and Development Department.

According to the study’s scope of services, Ghyabi and Associates would conduct a three-day analysis of parking to determine space turnover and identify cases of all-day parking which, according to Moore, could indicate that employees of businesses may be using public parking spots.
The analysis was to be conducted last month beginning on a Thursday at 11 a.m. and finishing up on Saturday at midnight. Three time periods were selected for study of parking at maximum capacity, including the lunch, dinner and late night entertainment hours.

Susan Fraser, a land planning consultant, introduced the first of several concerns that were not meant to be addressed in the original scope of the project. She suggested that the inventory should include driveways – widths, number of spots and turning radii – to be part of the recommendations. “Cars parked too close to driveways make it difficult for the residents to enter or exit driveways safely,” she said. “Is one of the outcomes that the streets would be striped [for parking spots]? That would make a difference.”
Since the project was not budgeted to handle such exhaustive research, members of the steering committee offered to conduct the driveway inventory to supplement Ghyabi and Associates’ data collection.

As District 14 Councilman Jim Love noted at the start of the meeting, “It’s fortunate that we have to do this study. There were times when we had a lot of vacant buildings. This is a growing pain that we’ll figure out,” he said. “It’s not just parking, it’s also mass transit and safety. After we implement the plan we’ll have to keep working on it to maintain our quality of life in these neighborhoods.”

Kickbacks’ owner Ed Salem suggested a moratorium on approving new businesses until the study was complete, since the results may impact future business but Burney disagreed, “We are looking at parking at a gross standpoint, not including the credit that the [Riverside-Avondale Zoning] Overlay would give.”
“But the overlay allows a 50 percent reduction in parking [for expanding a business in a historically contributing structure], so that 50 percent needs to go somewhere…” rejoined Salem, “…into the residential areas.”

The owner of Kickbacks faced that problem last year when he applied for permits to build Goozlepipe and Guttyworks restaurant on King Street. Salem resolved it by acquiring a parking lot to meet the requirement, but not every small business owner can afford to do that nor are there parcels available nearby in every situation.
“The conversion of small tenant spaces are an issue,” said Fraser. “The large parcels already have provisions for parking.”
Looking at the demands for future parking may prove to be easier said than done. “We need a crystal ball,” said Tom Merton owner of Merton House B&B. “Or at least take a look at the projects already approved.”

Burney said the approach would be to take “a best case guess of a worst-case scenario” for new business approvals in order to determine the most intensive need for parking.
The goal is to finish the study by Sep. 30 but in the meantime, after key milestones are reached in the study, public meetings will be held to solicit community input. The next steering committee meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 10 at 5:30 p.m. in the Ed Ball Building.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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