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City Council hears recommendations to fix growing parking issue

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By Chris Cox
Published Sept. 2, 2015

Increased parking on Main Street, raising hourly rates and removing some reserved spaces in garages were among a handful of recommendations consultants made to Columbia City Council Tuesday to fix its growing parking problem.

A recent forecast from Colliers International said the vacancy rate for parking garages downtown continued to decline this year, and tenants may soon struggle to find convenient spaces as the office market tightens. The parking inventory consists of more than 11,200 parking spaces in 18 garages, but only 2,587 spaces are currently available.

“We’ve been picking up on it for 12 years now,” said Peter Flotz, managing member of the Lansing Melbourne Group. “We know that Main Street desperately needs additional parking supply. It doesn’t need 50 spaces, it needs 500 or 600. You can change the mix of tenants downtown if you did that.”

Limiting the amount of reserved space in city-owned garages is also vital, he told City Council. Some of these properties have almost 30% of these types of spaces, but only 10% or 15% is necessary. This limits the amount of turnover in a given day.

Those same garages could see hourly rates go up as well. High-demand areas such as the Vista could see rates go up to $2 an hour at times, and spaces a few blocks away could also rise, Flotz said.

“The capital improvements that are necessary to keep the garages safe and in good shape and comfortable and well lit has been lacking over the last few years,” Flotz said. “The garages are not growing in revenue anymore, so we believe that there needs to be an adjustment in the rates so that there’s additional funds available to do that type of improvement.”

Flotz also continues to back nights and weekend charging, particularly in places such as Five Points. The district – which could also be home to some surface parking lots in the future, Flotz said – has seen its association back increased metered hours.

“You guys are growing restaurants like weeds and every time I turn around another hotel is announcing,” Flotz said. “It’s great because our spaces have been empty at night and now it’s filling up.”

Reach Chris Cox at 803-726-7545 or on Twitter @chrisbcox.

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