Some parking solutions for the reportedly growing demand in New Albany's Market Square could be on the horizon.
New Albany City Council members on March 21 agreed the topic was a priority during an MKSK presentation on a strategy for the village center that included a new street network to facilitate the flow of traffic, additional nature trails and a way to add parking spaces.
As a result, on April 17, city officials hope to bring council members detailed recommendations for near-, medium- and long-term parking options, said Jennifer Chrysler, the city's community-development director.
The available parking spaces in Market Square are not always enough to meed the demand from patrons as more businesses open in the area, said Jeff Pongonis, a principal with MKSK, a Columbus-based landscape-architect firm.
The city has 795 parking spots in Market Square now; after a planned project to revitalize the Rose Run creek corridor, that number would decrease to 782, according to MKSK's presentation.
Parking demand, meanwhile, could be 965 parking spots, according to MKSK's calculations.
The city bases parking demand on a complex formula evaluating uses, time of day and percentage of occupancy, Chrysler said.
The city's model suggests that after all tenant spaces are built out and leased, the city could have a peak demand of 965 spaces on weekdays from noon to 1 p.m., she said.
"We flew drones over the area at these times and have not actually had the lot more than 75 percent full at the projected highest peak time," she said. "This is just a computer model."
To address the problem, MKSK offered a set of suggestions that included two garage options and a resurfacing and restriping of the lot at the Philip Heit Center for Healthy New Albany, 150 W. Main St.
If the city wanted a higher business density in Market Square, a parking garage could be warranted, Pongonis said.
Until that time, repainting the lines in the lot would be the more cost-efficient solution, he said.
"To make a change, you have to make an investment," he said.
The city doesn't have enough data yet to know whether restriping would mean rearranging the spots or shrinking them in size, Chrysler said.
The 795 Market Square spaces include 706 in the city-owned lot and 89 on-street spaces. Resurfacing and restriping the lot would cost an estimated $1.5 million and would add 152 spaces, for a total of 947 spaces, according to MKSK.
The fact that the lot was constructed in stages, along with flaws in design, contributed to its ineffective use of space, said City Manager Joe Stefanov.
Two- and three-level parking garages west of Main Street would cost $7.5 million and $8.5 million respectively, according to MKSK, and would result in either 982 or 1,033 parking spaces.
The city also could address parking in the short term by regulating spots and creating hybrid short-term and permit parking, said Pongonis and MKSK principal Chris Hermann.
Several parking regulations for Market Square already were unveiled last year as part of a new parking policy. Signs include such stipulations as customer parking only and no student parking, according to the policy. Violators won't be towed but they will be fined $35.
ThisWeek reached out to a few business owners in the area to gauge their opinions.
Katherine Elliott, co-owner of Tailfeathers Accessories Boutique at 220 Market St., said her staff members have not heard any parking complaints from customers.
However, Geoff Clark, who owns Veloscience in the same building, said additional parking spaces could be a boon during certain times of the day.
"It's definitely starting to get more crowded," he said.
Customers occasionally complain that they can't park right in front of his store, and that can be a challenge when dropping off bikes, Clark said.
And during weekday evenings around 6 p.m., parents lining up to pick up children from the New Albany branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 200 Market St., creates a bit of a traffic jam, he said.
Still, Clark said, spots most always are available, albeit perhaps not in the most convenient locations.
What the city ultimately will do is unclear, but several options could be on the table, according to Chrysler.
In the near future, City Council could explore converting some street spaces to short-term parking, as well as some minor reconfigurations to the Market Square lot, Chrysler said.
In addition to determining a location for the short-term spaces, council members would need to determine enforcement, such as metered or police-monitored parking, she said.
Another initiative would be City Council's evaluation of three 5-minute walking destinations that could benefit from parking improvements, Chrysler said.
Those destinations are Village Hall, behind the CVS store near the Johnstown Road and Market Street roundabout and behind the Heit Center.
The 67-space public lot behind Village Hall already is open to the public during events, Chrysler said. The Market Square lot is behind the Heit Center.
The long-term solution could include City Council's decision whether to resurface and restripe the Market Square lot or build a parking garage, she said.
The city would need to analyze many development factors before determining the necessity of a parking garage, said City Manager Joe Stefanov.
Such factors include development patterns, demand for parking, the cost of various parking alternatives, funding mechanisms, safety, ease of access and aesthetics, he said.
"I think it is premature for council or the administration to arrive at any conclusions regarding a parking structure," he said.
Mayor Sloan Spalding also said it's too early to know whether a parking garage would be a good solution for the city.
"We have a lot of homework to do," he said.
During the March 21 meeting, Matt Shull said he liked the look of the parking garage in Grandview Yard and restriping the Market Square lot might not provide a long-term solution.
When asked later last week about his thoughts on a garage in New Albany, he said more research would be required before determining whether a parking garage is needed and he is not sure whether a garage would bother residents.