The Town Council debated last week where to park more cars downtown before asking staff to investigate the possibility for a larger surface lot or parking deck off West Franklin Street.
Town Manager Roger Stancil could return to the council with a detailed information about costs, possible partners and financial options in November.
The issue grew out of a project proposed for an existing public parking lot at 415 W. Franklin St. and because limited parking is a drag on business growth, Stancil said.
Legacy Real Property Group responded to a town request last year with a proposal for six stories of retail, offices, apartments and a music venue on the West Franklin Street lot. Stancil said a 450-space parking deck was the key to making any project work.
The project stalled, but Stancil noted the need for parking is growing as apartments, retail stores and high-density offices are added downtown. The demand now outpaces supply, especially around lunchtime, popular destinations and big events, he said.
A 2008 study found the town controlled about 25 percent of the parking downtown – 840 spaces – and noted the level for effectively regulating parking is about 50 percent. The town now controls more than 950 public parking spaces – still only about 25 percent, Stancil said.
“We want to create a pleasant experience for people who come downtown for whatever reason, let them visit multiple locations without being worried about their car and what’s going to happen to their car, and define places where we can support public parking,” he said.
The easiest and most affordable of six options are a parking deck behind The Courtyard on West Franklin Street and the town’s parking Lot 2 at the corner of East Rosemary and North Columbia streets, he said.
The cost of building a parking deck on other land behind Carolina Ale House is similar but requires a driveway from South Roberson Street.
UNC could be a potential partner in developing Lot 2, Stancil said.
Lot 2 and The Courtyard could support a 455-space, six-story parking deck at a cost of $16,860 per space. There is an additional cost for land at The Courtyard.
The Courtyard had planned an 88-space parking deck but dropped it in favor of a cheaper lease option, a Dilweg Companies Inc. official has said. The permit for redeveloping The Courtyard didn’t require the parking deck, Stancil said.
That seems like a good reason to include The Courtyard in the conversation now, Council member Donna Bell said.
“It never felt like it was an option. It felt like that was a large part of why we allowed that project to go forward,” she said.
Mayor Pam Hemminger suggested, in the short term, consolidating parking lots south of West Franklin Street. The town could add 103 more spaces at $2,500 each, plus land costs, Stancil said, for a total of 230.
The idea of a parking deck on Lot 2 at East Rosemary Street was rejected. The lot has many other development opportunities, Council member Michael Parker said. He suggested looking at other options, including UNC’s parking lots on West Rosemary Street.
“The thought of putting a third parking deck and converting East Rosemary Street effectively into the parking lot for Franklin Street seems to me shortsighted and not very good approach to urban planning,” Parker said.