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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Parking Problem?

There is a question that has come up time after time over the past couple of years that I have been involved with pushing for more retail in Fort Thomas; Is there a parking problem in Fort Thomas?

The question came up again during the candidate forum in the campaign for Fort Thomas City Council when current council member James Doepker answered a question about retail development by saying he would make more parking a key piece of attracting more retail.

Speaking from personal experience, I have never had a problem finding a parking spot either in the central business district or the Midway district. The most difficult time I have finding parking is when I go to the 915 and have to walk at most a block. THIS is not a parking problem. Parking problems are circling for 15 minutes to find a spot on Hyde Park Square only to pay $10 for valet or parking 6 blocks away in the pouring rain.

Despite ample parking the city still has zoning that makes it more difficult for small businesses to start and grow with investing additional money in off-street parking. I have included a comparison of Fort Thomas' off-street zoning compared to other communities across the country:

City / NeighborhoodOff-street Parking Requirement (# off-street parking spots)
Fort Thomas3.3 per 1,000 sq ft of retail space
NYC - South Park Neighborhood1 per 1,000 sq ft of commercial floor space
Denver1 per 500 sq ft of floor space
Hermosa Beach, CA1 per 250 sq ft of floor space - general retail
Aspen, CO1 per 1,000 sq ft

Aspen, Denver, and South Park NY all have less onerous zoning than Fort Thomas - how does that make sense?

In addition to the cities summarized in the table above additional findings include:
  • City of Akron reduced their requirement by 50% in April ’06 as part of a comprehensive urban renewal plan. This plan encourages the use of on-street parking to create a sense of a vibrant and active downtown area.
  • Norman, OK completely eliminated their off-street parking requirements in May 2000.
  • Denton, Texas reduced their requirements by 50% in 1999 as part of a plan to encourage the conversion of residential uses to non-residential / commercial uses.

The current restrictive zoning discourages retail and encourages banks, insurance agents, realty offices, etc.

In a survey sponsored by Fort Thomas a couple of years ago residents concluded that there is no parking issue in the main business districts. The survey results seemed to indicate a perceived parking problem with no real basis. When compared with a list of reasons that residents did not shop in the city the overwhelming response was the lack of selection or shopping options as the number one reason. Parking finished a distant 4th.

What do you think - parking problems or perception?

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