At the Huntsville City Council Meeting on February 6, 2018 Mayor Brauninger reported to the Council that he had received complaints from some Downtown businesses about parking issues, particularly around the downtown square. He proposed, and Council approved, asking the Main Street Advisory Committee to investigate and make recommendations to the Council. At last night’s (April 3) meeting Cheryl Spencer, Chair of that Committee, filed a report and made several such recommendations to the Council.
The committee report noted that all of the downtown businesses surveyed reported loss of business due to the parking situation. In the words of the report:
“All of the persons surveyed expressed frustration related to lack of customer access to their businesses resulting in less profitability and staying power in their downtown locations. With business activity across the freeway and limited visitor-friendly awareness, it is tough to make a go of it!!”
Some of the frustration expressed by downtown business owners may stem from the fact that the City has spent millions in recent years to provide top-flight business locations and customer access in areas west of the interstate. It has, for example, spent or committed to spend well over $10 Million doing that for the businesses in the Ravenwood Village Shopping Center alone. Yet it has done little or nothing like that to help businesses in downtown area of Huntsville.
The Main Street Committee report continues by outlining where some of the competition for parking spaces around the square comes from:
- potential jurors not parking in designated juror parking spaces,
- business and courthouse staffers not parking in more remote locations,
- event visitors taking business spaces, and
- event vendors obstructing those same spaces.
For the short term, the Committee recommends enhanced signage, ticket forgiveness for repeat customers and removal of paid parking restrictions on University Avenue between 14th and 16th Streets. Ms. Spencer noted that since the City converted that part of University Avenue to paid parking, no one parks there.
Longer term recommendations include
- the acquisition of additional leased lot space managed by the City,
- a two-level parking facility designed for attractiveness and appropriateness as well as function,
- cooperative discussion with County officials related to jury summons instructions and staff parking,
- a Downtown parking map showing location, all-day, one-hour and two-hour parking, and
- enforcement of existing rules for all.
After some discussion, the Council thanked the Committee for their report and agreed to schedule a Workshop to review the issue in more detail.