Parking problems persist despite spending, striping

For many of the three dozen or so people who attended a community meeting last month on the issue of parking in Riverside and Avondale, it was a flashback to five years ago.

And, as several participants noted, not much has changed since 2013.

Some streets in the historic district were striped to demarcate legal parking spots and to indicate illegal areas, such as those within 20 feet of an intersection, but otherwise, none of the other solutions recommended by Ghyabi & Associates – to the tune of $100,000 – were implemented. Those recommendations included residential parking permits, enforcement of ticketing illegally parked cars, and providing distance lots with shuttles for businesses’ employees.

“Very little was done, after a lot of effort and a lot of money,” said Tom Merten, owner of The Jenks House Bed and Breakfast on Post Street. “Other than striping, nothing has changed since the last study.”

The City of Jacksonville has engaged Timothy Haahs and Associates, a parking strategies consulting firm based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, who sent Roamy Valera of New Town Advisors, LLC in Miami, to re-visit the parking issue in Riverside/Avondale, as well as in Springfield and San Marco.

Valera and members of the Downtown Investment Authority, under which the Office of Public Parking resides, met with Riverside/Avondale residents and business owners Jan. 24 at the Winston Family YMCA to solicit comments on the issue of how parking or the lack thereof creates a tension between residential quality of life vs. economic development in the historic district.

There are six business corridors in the Riverside/Avondale area, and business owners from at least three (5 Points, Park and King Streets, The Shoppes of Avondale) were present to voice their opinions.

Karin Tucker, owner of Biscottis in The Shoppes of Avondale, said not having enough parking in that area “has created a huge conflict” with the nearby residents. They don’t want us to go away, but they also don’t want our customers parking in front of their houses, she said. “The City needs to put in a lot or a garage,” Tucker said, later noting that the Riverside Avondale Overlay has restrictions on doing that in the historic district.

Alicia Grant, who has lived in the Avondale area for 40 years, the most recent 26 on Riverside Avenue behind The Shoppes, noted the current mix of restaurant and retail “is terrible,” citing the loss of the retail shop Cowford Traders to Barrique, a restaurant in that space, with no change in the requirement for providing parking.

It’s not just the change from boutique to bar that can create a parking issue. After a new playground was installed in Boone Park on St. Johns Avenue in October 2016, it became a destination park for many visitors outside the immediate area, resulting in cars parked on residential side streets.

In the 5 Points area, where there has been a great increase in restaurants within the past seven years, Black Sheep Restaurant’s managing partner, Allan DeVault, noted there is a lot of parking inventory in the area, but much of it is privately owned and the businesses are not willing to share it. “We’ve tried to work out shared leases with medical offices and churches nearby, but haven’t gotten very far,” he said.

In addition, shared-use parking is not recognized as applicable for meeting parking credits, said Jennifer Mansfield, a Riverside resident and attorney. She also commented that the City’s inability to maintain alleys have forced vehicles to find parking on the streets.

The consultant noted that it will take about three to four months of data gathering before any solutions can be determined and then recommendations must be agreed upon by 60 percent of the residents and/or businesses affected.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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