Downtown business owners Tuesday night agreed that Charlottesville’s commercial and social hub is in desperate need of more parking spaces.
At a meeting of the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville’s parking committee, members said Charlottesville officials should quickly find space to build more public parking, regardless of the result of pending litigation between the city and the Charlottesville Parking Center.
“Where the city has dropped the ball consistently for the last decade is planning for additional parking,” said Sprint Pavilion Manager Kirby Hutto.
As business leaders challenge the city to find more space to park cars, planned developments close to the Downtown Mall promise at least some relief, though additional spots are likely at least two years away.
Three planned developments within a few blocks of the Downtown Mall could add nearly 800 parking spaces to the center of Charlottesville over the next few years, but whether those spaces will help alleviate the parking crunch is not clear.
Market Plaza, which will occupy the site of the metered parking lot at the corner of Water Street West and Second Street, is expected to add 105 public parking spaces and 160 private parking spaces. It is expected to open in early 2018. Construction was slated to begin this month, according to a website for the development.
A proposed nine-story building at 323 Second St. SE, which will include the Glass Building and will be adjacent to developer Oliver Kuttner’s newly-finished Treehouse, will hold another 200. Developer Jay Blanton has said he intends for those spaces to be available for hourly parking after a certain time of day.
The owners of ACAC submitted a site plan to the city in May for a seven-story, 160,000-square-foot building on the gravel lot adjacent to their gym between Garrett Street and Monticello Avenue.
Designs show the building will have about 400 parking spaces over a four-level built-in parking deck.
Business owners and city officials said those spaces do not necessarily represent a solid source of new parking for downtown patrons.
“What we haven’t done a great job of is using alternative spaces for the nighttime … If we could use 200 spaces at Kuttner’s place, that would be great,” said DBAC Chairman George Benford. “Whether additional parking like with those developments comes in, there is still going to be a need for more, without a doubt.”
Chris Craytor, vice president of development for ACAC, said a decision has not been made about whether to have any publicly available spaces.
“Availability of parking for public use has not been determined at this time,” he said. “This is a preliminary site plan and not a final site plan, so obviously some of the details will change.”
City officials declined to speculate what effect additional private spaces might have on the downtown landscape.
“It is a bit premature to speculate on the impact of the 200 spaces, as they exist only on paper at the moment and the applicant is at the beginning of the plan review and permitting process,” said Chris Engel, city director of economic development. “If they are built, the owners of the building may or may not choose to make some or all of the spaces available to the general public as their primary purpose will be to fulfill the needs of the office tenants occupying the building.”
City Councilor Bob Fenwick worried that parking rates in private garages would be too high.
“In general, when the city is involved in parking, profit is not the primary concern, it is the support of businesses,” he said. “I would welcome private development as long as we don’t run into a situation where they look at it strictly as a profit-making venture.”
The DBAC meets again at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in CitySpace. The meeting agenda does not include parking.