Parking begets development mantra alive & well in #TCMI

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Parking, parking, parking…

Before Thanksgiving the Record Eagle editorialized, “TC must invest in parking“, perhaps forgetting the two large decks, numerous surface parking spots, and below market rates at the meters already represent a good chunk of investment.

According to the editorial, the Downtown Development Authority  is looking to use the whole curve” running from Front St., along Pine St. to State St. on the downtown’s west side. The plan is to purchase the property  turn it into surface parking, and trust the development will come, which, according to plans will lead to a parking deck and riches for everyone.

There may indeed be a need for a parking deck, if it is done well with an eye towards more than simply storing automobiles, but I have yet to see the need for expanded parking presented as a fact. I also haven’t seen any systematic vision to mitigate the increased car traffic such a product would produce.

More, like the Record Eagle editorial, parking problems and subsequent solutions are presented as a divine understanding: parking begets development.

In their words (RE):

The lack of reliable, long-term parking options has been a block to development in the area for years, but any deal must work for both the city and a developer. Clearly, if the city wants to boost its property tax base on the west side, it must be prepared to make a substantial investment in parking…

But not investing can’t be an option. The city needs new west-side development, and west-side development needs parking; further delays don’t make sense.

Clearly, the writers at the Record Eagle don’t walk their own neighborhood much. Have they visited Lot O behind the post office? It’s empty. On street parking on Pine and State sits empty. There is under utilized  parking spaces across the city. Not to mention, what are we doing to create incentives and options to reach downtown by other means? It still costs more to ride BATA to downtown than it does to park for 2 hours. This is all part of the same conversation.

The problem isn’t parking, the problem is development models and financing schemes that require parking to be over-built and a political class that doesn’t push back on that point nearly enough.  At this point, I’m still not seeing a public discussion that doesn’t dice-up city issues, avoiding the impacts beyond the direct footprint of a project.

As stated, a deck can make sense. They free up space for other developments, both private and public. They tighten up blocks which improve walkability. If priced correctly, they could provide funds to mitigate traffic impacts in the neighborhoods. But they work against communities if they are just being built to satisfy status-quo, subsidize perceived needs of private development, and increase motorized traffic. We need to be careful, as the old adage says:

“You don’t attract what you want; you attract what you are.” 

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And, elsewhere:_

If you think parking & weather are your main issues, you’re community needs help.”

~ Fred Kent, Northwest Michigan Placemaking Summit

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NOTE: The author sits on the TC Planning Commission and has participated in the downtown Parking & Access Committee, the latter of which agreed that the City explore the option to buy land for a possible parking deck in a 4-1 vote back in October. 

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  1. Bob Atallo
    November 29, 2012 at 10:58 am

    “O Lord, please send me growth to manage”
    - Traditional Planner’s Prayer

  2. November 29, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Are these lots being currently used for private parking? I’m not in TC, but my recollection is that they are either private parking lots or, at least, don’t have buildings on them. Reason I ask is that it appears that a private parking lot or parking deck would be permitted under the C-4c zoning, either by right or by SLUP. Reason I point that out is if private parking lots or a deck are permitted, and there’s either parking going on there now, or could be going on there without a tremendous investment (i.e. tearing a building down), then why does the City think there’s the market demand for parking on that side of Front Street? I’m not saying by any means that markets are perfect and just because the private sector isn’t doing it means it shouldn’t be done. But if the facts are as I’ve laid them out I’d want to know why, if the City thinks the demand for parking is there and the private sector hasn’t stepped up to provide parking why is that the case? It could indicate a number of things, including, of course, that there isn’t actually a great demand for parking on that side.

  3. mikecgrant
    November 30, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Evidently, based on this morning’s Record Eagle, the DDA is looking at building a deck and not surface lots. My guess is that no private entity is going to be building its own deck in downtown TC because it can’t make the financing work. So perhaps the debate should now shift to whether or not now is the time for the City to invest in a deck on the west side of Front Street. One question I would ask is have the other two decks succeeded in terms of making former surface parking lots now available for development. I believe to some degree they have. I think there was a surface lot on the corner of Boardman and State, which is now townhouses. And I believe that at least one of the businesses (Blue Tractor) is supposed to be expanding back into the surface lot behind them. In my opinion, replacing surface parking with buildings in the downtown is the way to go and decked parking is one way to get there. I have no idea, however, if now is the time financially to put a deck on west Front, not knowing what the market looks like.

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