City brings in consultant to address San Marco Square parking

San Marco merchants stress about not having enough parking spaces for their customers. Nearby residents complain about the people who park in front of their houses because they can’t find spaces in San Marco Square.

And everyone is worried about the impact new development — coming in the not-so-distant future — will have on merchants and residents alike.

So, they were interested in the ideas put forth at a public meeting Jan. 25 at Preservation Hall hosted by the Downtown Investment Authority. Roamy Valera, a consultant working for consultant Timothy Haahs & Associates, is in the midst of a parking study of the core city. He has been seeking input from residents and merchants in San Marco, Riverside/Avondale and Springfield.

Parking in historic districts can be both a catalyst and challenge, Valera said.

“It is an asset we need to survive economically and to support our lifestyles,” he said.

The challenge in historic districts is that they are land-bound. The demand for parking varies depending on the type of business, he said. A dry cleaner needs fewer spaces than a restaurant, a movie theater needs three-hour parking instead of two-hour.

Valera asked the audience what they thought was working. The response:

  • Southside Baptist Church’s willingness to share their parking lots.
  • Traffic flow through the Square.
  • The fact that some storefronts are vacant, reducing the demand for parking.
  • An upswing in people walking, cycling or using ride-sharing services.

What isn’t working?

  • Zoning regulations that require restaurants to have a certain number of spaces based on seating capacity.
  • Competition for spaces between businesses, and businesses and residents.
  • The removal of on-street parking on Hendricks to accommodate bike lanes.
  • Fears that the shortage of parking will drive away customers and businesses.
  • Parking on residential streets, which causes traffic jams, property damage, noise and blocks access to driveways and sidewalks.

So, what are some possible solutions?

  • More shared parking like the arrangement San Marco merchants have with Southside Baptist Church.
  • A centralized parking lot or garage with shuttle service to the shopping district.
  • Encouraging people who live near the Square to walk or cycle.
  • An app that would identify empty parking spaces.
  • Designated off-site parking for employees.

Some people think that autonomous vehicles will solve the problem by eliminating the need for personal vehicles, Valera said, but he doubts people will be parting with their cars in the immediate future.

“I think it will be another 10 to 15 years before we begin to see that happen,” Valera said. “But hotels are already reporting a drop in demand for parking.”

Valera said he will be using the material gathered in the public meetings to come up with recommendations with the Downtown Investment Authority.

David Blue, owner of San Marco Theatre, said he likes the sound of Valera’s ideas, “but it all comes down to the same thing, what’s it going to cost and how is it going to be funded.”

“San Marco Square used to be run down but it’s become a vibrant destination that everyone wants to come to. The downside is there’s going to be people parking in front of your house.”


By Lilla Ross
Resident Community News

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