In recent weeks a flurry of action has seen 126 new public parking spaces either arriving or being started.
That would be the roughly 50 added by the reopening of the privately owned lot between Great Harvest Bread Co. and Swift & Finch Coffee Co.; the 41 spaces to be created (supposedly temporarily ... but for some years) just down the block from the revitalized Partridge where the old Top Hat complex is shortly to come down; the 35 public spaces to be added right behind Harvest Moon/Mellow Mushroom in a parking-space swap the Downtown Development Authority engineered with First Presbyterian Church.
That’s not even mentioning the 385 spaces added only three years ago — and now taken for granted and obviously being used and generating income to repay the bonds ($7.9 million) used to build it — in the new city/county Third Avenue deck. Supposedly needed to serve The Forum and Hawthorn Suites, it now offers almost doorstep parking (back doors, anyway) to such as Johnny’s New York Pizza, the new Curlee’s Fish House and others. Which came first? The chicken or the egg? The restaurants or the easier parking?
DARNED IF WE know, though clearly each has had something to do with the other. And our apologies for the limited examples used, which leaves unidentified many other downtown eating places, retailers, service providers, business offices, etc. whose ventures — and chances for success — are certainly improved by their clientele knowing they won’t have to circle Broad Street blocks endlessly.
Some will anyway, of course, believing they must park right in the front of the target location’s front door, but that’s another topic more sociological in nature than it is about infrastructure.
However, it is plain that what appears to be occurring regarding this long-standing problem of parking downtown, on which much good money has been spent in the past hiring consultants to try to discover a solution, is what’s known as a symbiotic relationship.
The term originates in biology and means the close and often essential interaction between different species, lichens being the usual example given. However, for the past 150 years or so it has also been applied to relationships in human society.
There are many such relationships in nature, not all of them mutual in the sense of determining survival. Those in which one can’t live without the other are called of the “obligate” variety. That is what Rome’s downtown now has.
Could restaurants/stores live very long without easy access? Would easy access do other than shrivel up and die if it had no purpose to serve?
ROME’S DOWNTOWN has a fairly new “symbiotic relationship” going on that is spurring its growth ... and solving the dual, joined-at-the-hip problems of luring customers and giving them a place to park. More convenient parking attracts more entrepreneurs; more places of business generate more action regarding improved parking. And that is where Broad Street and vicinity now appear to be.
It is also delightful to see that a combination of governmental, private and even religious interests now seem to see and understand their symbiotic relationship and its value to the continued existence/prosperity of each. All were involved in this, with the DDA clearly having turned into the test-tube scientist formulating this tinkering.
When actions start replacing words regarding enduring problems, and the value of varied elements working together becomes recognized, only good things can happen. Now, if there were just some hope that the state and national sectors could arrive at this point.
It’s also good to see local leaders/interests start getting inventive and thinking outside of the proverbial box in accomplishing much of this. The long-term lease swap with the church, for example, gives First Presbyterian 59 spaces next to its living center in a reconfigured/improved Mid-Town Transit station while the church-owned slots serving that purpose but by the back doors of busy restaurants will become a public-run pay lot. And with a solar-powered “attendant” that takes cash money or credit cards to boot.
Similarly, trees and shrubs taken from the neglected park on the Cotton Block site also due for new private-sector activity will landscape the Broad and Third “temporary” lot.
THERE COULD well be more of this — one hand washing the other to get rid of parking-problem germs. A large number of similar opportunities exist in this immediate area.
By the way, the parking fees on the paid lot with solar guardian have not yet been set. Let’s hope the smartness continues there. For example, $1 for the first two hours handles the in/out diner/shopper demand relatively painlessly ... and $1 per hour over that would discourage those who might think of this as a new place to park all day. This does not have the same purpose as the Third Avenue deck, where $5 per day is used to discourage abuse of the mainly free spaces on Broad and its side streets.
Speaking of which, in addition to encouraging trade at restaurants and other ventures, how’s about using parking to encourage nightlife ... still far from as active as it should be downtown.
For example, the Mid-Town reconfiguration includes 73 DDA spaces. Buses largely don’t run at night (the last bus stop there is at 6:29 p.m.). How’s about setting aside some 20-40 of those spaces after 6:30 p.m. for pub crawlers and similar who are more likely to go the “designated driver” route and leave their cars downtown if there were a “no parking tickets” zone at that location. As matters now stand, it is not unknown for parking violation tickets to be slapped on vehicles left there in an otherwise empty lot ... even as early at 8 a.m. when very little that is downtown has yet opened.
GOOD THINKING is obviously occurring regarding fixing much of what ails parking, and its image, downtown. Let’s keep that going. The area’s attractiveness for starting ventures that rely on a steady, car-borne flow of visitors will thus be kept going too. It’s called symbiosis.