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I see the Mayor is getting out his signs again this year. This is a welcome sight because he deserves another term for...

Downtown parking study underway

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Cars parked in downtown Greenville on May 16, 2017. (Joe Pellegrino/The Daily Reflector)

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Sharieka Botex
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A consulting firm hired by Greenville plans to provide findings and offer ideas about parking in the downtown area within the next 8 to 12 weeks, officials said Tuesday.

Close to 40 people attended a Center City Parking Study meeting at Sheppard Memorial Library where local business owners, employees and residents expressed concerns.

Roger Johnson, economic development manager for Greenville, said the city hired a parking consultant to make recommendations in 2011, and many were implemented. But the downtown area has seen tremendous growth since then, he said. The city commissioned another study this year.

“We literally are under construction as a community ... $528 million, a half billion, is being invested into our Uptown in the next three or four years, so our whole landscape will change. As a result of that, parking demands change,” Johnson said.

Michael Connor and Andrew Baglini of Walker Parking Consultants provided updates about their process. Baglini said on April 25 they were able to get a good snapshot of a typical day in downtown Greenville. 

“There was a lot of activity,” he said. The firm collected hourly counts of all the on-street parking spaces, the public lots and lots at East Carolina University, Andrews said. There was also an hourly count between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on April 24 and April 25 of private lots, he said. 

While the firm uses counts and observations to help devise an action plan, feedback from residents is essential to determine what recommendations will be provided. Connor said the firm will take a look at procedures, enforcement, zoning and parking management. 

“The most important piece of information we gather is from the stakeholders, the people that live, breathe, eat and work in this community who are going to experience or deal with changes that are occurring for the good and not so good,” Connor said.

Participants raised a wide-range of issues including the cost of parking tickets, entering license plate numbers in parking kiosks, the use of Pitt County and East Carolina University lots during off hours, parking meters and a lack of parking along Dickinson Avenue.  

One business owner said the city needs to better utilize its parking deck. A Sheppard Memorial Library employee said the Five Points lot is being closed too often for events that could be held at the Town Common.

A representative from Jarvis Memorial United Methodist Church said motorists are parking at the church when they are downtown to visit the Greenville Police Department, the library and downtown businesses. He said the church is going to begin towing unauthorized vehicles.

“We’d like to be able to accommodate everybody, but we’ve got to look after our members,” he said. “Wednesday is a big farmers market day. It’s a big day at the church.”  

A representative from the downtown Chico’s restaurant said some pay stations don’t work and signage that advises people to observe their space numbers is unclear. Some said a lack of free parking downtown makes it difficult for them to compete with businesses and restaurants that have free parking. 

Andrew Schmidt, director of the Greenville-Pitt County Convention and Visitors Bureau, talked about convenience. 

“We want to make sure we are competitive against other destinations ... If it’s easy to come here, then people will come here again and again,” he said. “When a visitor finds it hard to come here, there’s other destinations they go to. So we want to make sure our destination is easy to navigate.”  

Schmidt also suggested that while he sees the 75 cents as a bargain, others may not. “Some people around here have never paid to park before so I think we have that kind of evolution that we need to think about as well,” he said.

Contact Sharieka Botex at 252-329-9567 and sbotex@reflector.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShariekaB. 

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