June 5, 2009

Parking pinch on Main Street limits business

A parking crunch along Main Street is perhaps squeezing out customers who might otherwise help bolster business between Riverside Avenue and High Street.

Business owners and landlords along the historic heart of downtown “are experiencing a parking crisis that directly affects our ability to do business and attract new businesses and tenants,” according to Mark Policki, owner of Bristol Cleaners & Custom Tailoring.

Tom Zipp, a landlord, said the city has “a once-in-a-lifetime” chance to add angled parking on the west side of the street that would go a long way toward easing the parking pinch.

While city officials say they are sympathetic, they have held the line against making any changes until plans for the former downtown mall site are much farther along, effectively blocking any new parking there for at least a few years.

A $1.3 million streetscape improvement project that’s slated to overhaul the look of the road from Riverside Avenue to Center Street will add some parallel parking spaces simply by clearly designating them, officials said.

Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director, said that about eight new spots would be added on the lower section of the streetscape.

“That’s a lot,” Policki said.

But even with better parallel parking along the sides of the road, business owners fear that the crunch will worsen after The Bristol Press moves its offices into a former dance studio this month. [More on this later.]

Zipp, who owns the 188-194 Main Street building where the Press is moving, said the paper’s customers will need parking that’s already scarce.

For the time being, most of the overflow parking from the area heads for the former mall parking lot between McDonald’s and the railroad bridge across Main Street.

The city, which owns the site, has no problem with people using the lot, but warns that it might become unavailable whenever a developer is brought in to revitalize the 17-acre former mall property.

Rosenthal said the city is working with the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. to get a study done of the parking situation throughout downtown, which may be the first step toward a future parking garage or other new lots.

Rosenthal said he looked into putting new parking behind Policki’s building, but found it would cost $35,000 per space, which is too high.

Policki said the city has to act.

“Lack of customer and tenant parking is a daily problem for all of us” who have businesses on Main Street, he said, “and will get much worse when the area is developed.”

He said a concerted effect by the city is required to find ways to create more nearby parking.

“We just need more parking spaces down there,” city Councilor Ken Cockayne said.

The streetscape project, ,which aims to replicate the look of North Main Street’s 2005 project, will add bumpouts, new sidewalks, trees, lights and more to make the section more attractive and inviting. It is slated to get underway in the coming year.

But it’s not meant to add any significant amount of parking.

Mayor Art Ward said that the city has to make sure it’s safe before it can try angled parking on Main Street. The road is too narrow for angled spots now, he said.

To add spaces would require the city to build a new lot or to move the west side of Main Street further into the mall property in order to add angled parking, Policki and Zipp said.

Ward said that any developer of the mall site is going to want ample parking so perhaps it can be part of the package.

Zipp said that angled parking on Main Street should be required as part of any plan for the ex-mall property.

Policki said that once the parking situation is addressed, the city will find new businesses seeking to open on Main Street.

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Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree that the West side on Main Street needs angle parking.

But let’s stop looking at the city as the culprit. Tom Zipp buys a building with no parking, probably got a sweet deal. Tenants move into spaces that lack parking, probably got a good deal on rent. The Bristol Press is moving into a building that has no parking, probably got a deal on the rent.

Any one or all of these businesses could have located on Route 6 or in Forestville Commons or anywhere else that has ample parking. They located downtown, at least in part, because of the low rent. Now they DEMAND parking?

Isn’t this a bit like buying a house next to the airport and then complaining about the noise?

Hasn’t Tom Zipp gotten enough money from his buddy Rosenthal who helps him with fa├žade improvements, truck turnarounds and restaurant renovations?

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see that someone else besides me has linked Rosenthal and Zipp.

Hope the next one is Ward!

Anonymous said...

Plenty of vacant land on main st.Its not the citys problem . the land is their.

Anonymous said...

HE MUST BE BUYING HIM DONUTS.

Anonymous said...

I'm against this idea. Angle parking is a hazard...especially when elderly folks are behind the wheel. They will back out right into cars and people. As well as hit the gas instead of the brake nd end up smashing through the storefronts...which has happened many times around here. A better idea would be to build a parking garage right where Ocean State Job Lot was and provide parking for Main St businesses. And please find a way to do something about that horrible looking train overpass. It's a disgrace

Anonymous said...

Yah Cockayne, but don't raise taxes.

So how do you propose to do it?

Anonymous said...

The City is not Santa Claus you know.

Anonymous said...

This is not the citys problem. The old main st is gone. Un less the politians finish destroying it and new people moving in take over they dont drive any way.Then we could pick one of them to be mayor.

Anonymous said...

Don't we have a Parking Authority anymore, or has the mayor taken that over too?

U R clueless said...

if you weren't so stupid, you might call city hall to see if we still have a parking authority or do you need to be retrained to use a telephone book - 9:11?

Anonymous said...

12:03

Maybe the Mayor ought to call City Hall and check on the status of the Parking Authority: he seems to be working at usurping their role in the city's operation.

Anonymous said...

U R CLueless

Looks like you've been had!

Can't you see a rhetorical/sarcastic question when you see one?

I read it as why is the mayor playing king and bypassing the Parking authority.

Which he apparently is.

Anonymous said...

HOW TRUE.