Space invaders: City promises more parking downtown

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Mayor Mike Signer announced today the city's acquisition of a half-acre of land, which will be used for public parking. Staff photo Mayor Mike Signer announced today the city’s acquisition of a half-acre of land, which will be used for public parking. Staff photo

Charlottesville officials held a press conference November 15 to announce their latest step in solving the city’s parking crisis.

“We hear you and we want to help,” Mayor Mike Signer said before announcing the city’s acquisition of a $2.85 million half-acre parcel currently housing Guadalajara and Lucky 7 and located on the northeast end of the Downtown Mall on the corner of Ninth and Market streets, on which they intend to install public parking. Each business has five years left on its lease.

This parcel is adjacent to the surface lot already owned by the city and county at Seventh and Market streets, which has also been studied as a potential parking destination. The two sites together total an acre of downtown real estate.

City Manager Maurice Jones, present at the press conference, gave a rough timeline of three to five years until the project’s completion and said the city hasn’t ruled out buying out each business’ lease, or allowing the Mexican restaurant and convenience store to continue operating in a mixed-use complex similar to the one in the works at Keith Woodard’s West2nd (formerly known as Market Plaza).

City Councilor Bob Fenwick said the deal in question has been brought “back from the dead more than once,” but thanks to Jones and Craig Brown, the city’s attorney, this time, it’s the real McCoy.

And there’s more than just the land acquisition on the horizon. Fenwick described a new smartphone app “on the cusp” of completion, in which drivers will be able to log on and see every empty parking spot available downtown. He says we could see a pilot of the app by next spring, perhaps for just the parking garages.

And in areas where parking isn’t free, he says drivers could potentially pay by linking their bank account or credit card to the app, which would save time when masses of cars are trying to leave parking decks after events on the Downtown Mall. Eventually each parking space will have an indicator that will monitor whether someone is currently inhabiting the spot.

One issue, he says, is that there are still a number of people who don’t use smartphones, but at some point, “Everybody didn’t have a TV, either.”

“There has been a lot of concern this year about parking,” the mayor acknowledged at the conference.

You’re telling us.

The ongoing melodrama between the city and the Charlottesville Parking Center owner Mark Brown, the impending rollout of 157 parking meters surrounding the mall as part of a six-month pilot program and the eventual loss of more than 150 parking spaces due to the reconstruction of the Belmont Bridge and another nearby development have given us a lot to write about.

“It’s going to get better,” Fenwick says. “We’re paying more attention to it.”

To alleviate some of the parking pain, the city opened the Avon Park and Ride on October 1 across from Edgecomb’s Imported Auto Sales and Service on Avon Street Extended. There are 50 free parking spaces at the location, and a bus shuttles people to and from the downtown area every half hour. The shuttle costs .75 cents each way or $1.50 for a day pass, and it takes about 10 minutes to get to downtown and 20 minutes to get back to the park and ride.

Transit Manager John Jones says, eventually, he hopes to make 100 spaces available, but few people have made use of the current 50.

As for the meter rollout scheduled for the coming months, Fenwick says, “It wouldn’t bother me if that were delayed. In fact, I’ll push for that,” adding that meters were once used in spaces surrounding the mall, but were removed to draw more customers.

“It worked like a charm,” he says. “In our zeal to do something new, I want to make sure we don’t do something that isn’t helpful.”

And for those of you fretting about losing the Mexican restaurant famous for its fajitas, at least one person is on your side: “I will say I’ve already lobbied to keep Guadalajara,” Fenwick said at the conference with a grin.

 

Updated from original post below–

Charlottesville officials held a press conference today to announce their latest step in solving the city’s parking crisis.

“We hear you and we want to help,” Mayor Mike Signer said before announcing the city’s acquisition of a $2.85 million half-acre parcel of land located on the northeast end of the Downtown Mall, on which they intend to install public parking.

This parcel is adjacent to the surface lot already owned by the city and county at Seventh and Market streets, which has also been studied as a potential parking destination. The two sites, together, total an acre of downtown real estate.

Guadalajara and Lucky 7 are currently located on the acquired parcel on the corner of Ninth and Market streets. Each has five years left on its lease.

City Manager Maurice Jones, present at the press conference, gave a rough timeline of three to five years until the project’s completion and said the city hasn’t ruled out buying out each business’s lease, or allowing the Mexican restaurant and convenience store to continue operating in a mixed-use complex similar to the one in the works at Keith Woodard’s West2nd (formerly known as Market Plaza).

City Councilor Bob Fenwick said the deal in question has been brought “back from the dead more than once,” but thanks to Jones and Craig Brown, the city’s attorney, this time, it’s the real McCoy. And there’s more than just the land acquisition to be excited for, city officials said—Fenwick described a new smartphone app “on the cusp” of completion, in which drivers will be able to log on and see every empty parking spot available downtown.

“There has been a lot of concern this year about parking,” the mayor acknowledged at the conference.

You’re telling us.

The ongoing melodrama between the city and the Charlottesville Parking Center owner Mark Brown, the impending rollout of 157 parking meters surrounding the mall as part of a six-month pilot program and the eventual loss of more than 150 parking spaces due to the reconstruction of the Belmont Bridge and another nearby development have given us a lot to write about.

And for those of you fretting about losing the Mexican restaurant famous for its fajitas, at least one person is on your side: “I will say I’ve already lobbied to keep Guadalajara,” Fenwick said with a grin.

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