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Businesses Brainstorm Solutions to Downtown Kent Parking Problems

Kent businesses gather at Skullz Salon to discuss ongoing parking issues downtown

The increasing popularity of downtown Kent as a destination is causing growing pains for both motorists and business owners.

On Tuesday, about 20 downtown business owners, managers and several city officials gathered at to address parking problems – both new and long-standing ones that are now amplified.

The meeting was opened by Mary Gilbert, executive director of , and most comments and questions were directed to Jim Bowling, city engineer, and Bill Lillich, city safety director.

A similar meeting held last month netted a list of parking concerns. This month’s session was an opportunity to brainstorm solutions that could ease those concerns during the next 18 months of construction in the downtown area.

Many problems will be solved once the multimodal transit center is constructed on Erie Street. The facility will accommodate bikes, cars and buses and provide 370 new downtown parking spaces.

In the meantime, though, numerous parking spots on DePeyster, Erie and Water streets have been lost to construction fencing put up around the block bordered by those streets and Haymaker Parkway.

That block will house a hotel and conference center being built by the and Columbus hotelier Pizzuti Companies, as well as the Fairmount Properties project across DePeyster. The latter building will house offices for AMETEK and Davey Tree Expert Co.'s Davey Resource Group  on the second floor and numerous restaurants and shops at street level.

Also under construction in that area is the second phase of developer Ron Burbick’s Acorn Alley, which fronts on Main Street and extends south toward Erie Street.

One of downtown’s biggest parking problems, it was agreed last month, is business employees parking in what Bowling called “prime spots” that should be available to customers. Lillich agrees.

“The one thing we hear most often is the concern about repeat parking offenders who tie up spaces, moving from space to space” throughout the day to avoid being ticketed, he said.

There are no parking meters downtown, but there are “two-hour limit” signs posted in various areas. Lillich said consistent enforcement of that time limit would be labor intensive and therefore too costly for the city to implement.

Meeting attendees agreed that a good start to solving the problem would be a “persuasive letter” sent to every downtown business owner along with a map showing where employees should and should not park. The letter will be written by Dan Smith, the city’s economic development director, and distributed by Main Street Kent.

Since many business owners have received customer complaints about two hours not being enough time to thoroughly enjoy all that downtown offers, Lillich said some areas will be changed to three-hour parking on a trial basis.

Also, Bowling said the city will look into the feasibility of changing parallel parking on some streets to angled parking to ease the shortage of prime spots for the near term.

Lillich said it will take up to a month for the city to create a new, temporary parking action plan complete with maps and signage that will help both downtown patrons and employees get through the construction period.

Debi Downer May 11, 2011 at 03:53 PM
What is wrong with people having to walk?!?! No wonder we have obesity!
Robin Anderson May 11, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Main Street Kent could award a daily prize, in the form of various gift certificates, to any downtown visitor found to have arrived in the area as either a pedestrian or a bicyclist.
Alice Ickes May 12, 2011 at 06:03 PM
Mr Bowling & Mr Lillich, please see what you can do to improve space for pedestrians and the lighting along the fenced off construction area too. I drive in the downtown area frequently and it seems to be a problem day & night. Several times, cars turning North from Haymaker onto Water Street have been close to hitting pedestrians and vehicles in those dark areas. The alley between Skullz and Woodsey's is also too dark to see your footing if you are walking there. A few temporary lights and a little more walking space might prevent injuries. The improvements will be worth the growing pains! Wow - what a great time for our community!
Chip Souza May 12, 2011 at 09:24 PM
What about a multi-story parking deck? it works well in other towns trying to preserve the downtown Main Street heritage... I'll bet every one reading this can name some examples of other cities that have successfully placed a parking deck in the Central Business District. Heck, one can even charge for parking and produce some revenue for the city-a lot more coin than old fashioned meters, and more efficient than merely parking at an angle. What does Jim Bowling think of a parking deck?
Michelle Sahr May 13, 2011 at 10:27 AM
Chip I thought you were kidding. If so... LOL. If not, great news for you. The Multi-Modal parking deck has already broken ground and will be completed by the end of 2012. Read all about it here... http://www.kentohio.org/private/Kent%20Central%20Gateway.asp
Tom Simpson May 17, 2011 at 12:40 AM
The lot behind Alley 3 would make a nice multi-level deck and utilize the slope of the hill to blend in.
Chip Souza May 17, 2011 at 04:09 AM
Hi Michelle, Yes, I see how you could've read that as a "tongue in cheek" kind of statement. It is rather funny, if you spin it that way! Here I am, writing in about a suggestion for a parking deck, and lo and behold, there is a nice plan for a multi use facility in the works. I grew up in Kent in the 80's, now I live in the Big City of Phoenix. It has been refreshing this past year to read the home town papers and learn about all the goings on. My little town is getting all growed up! The city managers and the university are actually working together, as opposed to how it used to be -- just talk. Well, parking deck solutions for the downtown area have been a need for many decades. I appreciate the progressive thinking Kent Engineers and University officials have put forth for the "connection" of the town to the University. It is long overdue. The College Avenue/DePeyster corridor shouldn't be wasted on college keg porch parties. Kent Central Gateway is not the answer to the downtown parking issue. KCG will be a huge answer to town & gown engagement, however, not the final answer. Take a look at Cuyahoga Falls. Yes, we all know that Front Street pedestrian-only & parking deck combination was an experiment. That is not an apples to apples example. So then, take a look at Prescott, Arizona. http://www.prescottaz.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubsectionID=1086&ArticleID=82236 Problem will always be "downtown employee parking" This is what you need a deck for.

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