Thursday, April 7, 2016

Downtown Merchants Talk Parking Problems

Fairhope, Alabama

 Dan Burden at left


Downtown merchants and Faulkner State College representatives were the last of three focus groups to meet with consultants Dan Burden and Samantha Thomas yesterday about parking and transportation issues in the downtown central business district.

The sessions were conducted to gather input/ideas for his team before making final recommendations to the Public at a meeting next week, Burden said.

This particular group seemed to contradict those earlier in the day by saying that use of the garage is much better than had been reported, and is often filled up (except for the upper deck).

Tourists and visitors use the deck the most, they observed, locals prefer using on street parking as they always have; some of the merchants are requiring their employees park there (garage).

Sometimes the doors to stairwells are locked preventing access by the public, but windows were installed recently for security purposes. Using the elevator can be scary, too.

Employees eating up on-street parking is a big problem too, Burden said.

Each space lost represents potential sales of up to $200K a year.

There is no way to force anyone to park in certain places, but "incentives" may be offered.


Dr. Borom third from right
Several merchants and library director Dean pointed the finger at Faulkner students for scarce parking on the east side and advocated for more parking on the campus itself; but Dr. John Borom was adamant in that no more space existed there for parking -- and the city agreed in writing to provide all parking for students back in the 1980s anyway.

Any vacant space left on the campus will be "built out" within ten years, he said.

The college has 1,500 students currently that contribute significantly to the local economy and the only solution for the parking problem was an "environmentally friendly" shuttle service run by the city circulating regularly around town: he was opposed to placing any parking restrictions on his students.

He thought federal grants may be available to fund the shuttle.


Burden recommended to work with what exists now rather than think about adding new facilities (parking lots?)  -- and to concentrate on improving the parking garage area to make it more accessible/pedestrian friendly.
"ugly" garage?

Burden called the garage area an "ugly eyesore" now but with potential to become a more desirable place for retail and social life: "one of the best public places in America." 

Cleaning up the area and installing plants, artwork, etc. was discussed as well as better signage directing visitors there.

Improving the appearances of the back side of the businesses along the south-side alley with public access to the stores from the rear was also mentioned -- as well as better lightning and security measures.

The parking deck is only a part of the overall issue though, finding ways to maximize on-street parking everywhere downtown is his team's goal too, Burden said.


Anyone who participated in the workshops may attend a walking tour with Burden to begin at 2PM at Centennial Hall on the Faukner campus -- and a discussion to follow.

The general public is invited to attend the final presentation of recommended solutions Monday at the civic center (8AM, free coffee and donuts).

Section St. below


Eating 'round the South said...

Too much of the premium spots in the deck are reserved for hotel guests.

Anonymous said...

As a life time resident, Fairhope has grown mostly for the good. However there are many many downfalls to the current parking design.. Bancroft is the poorest of designs! Behind Greers by Faulkner.. If you drive down in a larger vehicle you must cross the center line to avoid hitting the rear end of long wheel based cars or trucks that are parked. It's that way in most parts of downtown. It's so frustrating!

The Phantom Parker said...

Never had much of a problem parking downtown. Had lunch at The Bistro Monday around noon. Drove east on Fairhope and parked two spaces west of the restaurant. Like any busy city, sometimes you just have to be patient and it may take a trip around the block. Although close, this is not Mayberry or Camolot so some inconvenience can be expected. Sometimes it seem we trip over ourselves to correct a problem that dose not exist. Leave well enough alone.

Anonymous said...

May not be Mayberry anymore, but I don't want to drive around the block 15 times to even find something within the block radius to pick up a RX at the local drug store that I have done business with for 40+ years. I don't mind walking a little bit, but come on - 4 blocks away for a 15 minute trip to the drug store.

Anonymous said...

Raze the college and build a parking lot with golf carts picking people up so they do not even have to walk a block. Also give away feathers in every restaurant so customer can barf out the meal and walk a half block and eat again.

Anonymous said...

Why are only downtown merchants on this committee. Don't citizens who have to compete with the tourists for parking have any say in the matter any more?

our leadership is failing us .

Anonymous said...

You are so right! Why do the citizens of Fairhope suffer for a few tourist? Besides, once they see the famous Flower Clock and Stinky Pier/Bay, what else is there for them to see? I just want to shop in my hometown like I used to. Don't like Wally world but the local shops are too $$$$$ for me. Used to could do all my shopping needs local, but not anymore.