If projections made by a nationally recognized consulting firm hold true, downtown Farmington could need hundreds of more parking spaces over the next 5-10 years.
Andrew Vidor, representing Walker Parking Consultants, told members of the City of Farmington Parking Advisory Committee on Thursday that the central business district's parking system today operates at maximum capacity. Walker collected and evaluated data last year; the company conducted a similar study in 2008.
When it comes to parking, Vidor said, downtown Farmington is at a "tipping point."
"There has to be a balance between how much room the city wants to provide for future growth and how convenient do you want to make it for people to come downtown," he said.
With a 155-unit apartment complex in the works at the former Maxfield Training Center site on Thomas Street, and potential filling of empty storefronts with restaurants, which place a higher demand on parking, downtown Farmington could need as many as 429 parking spaces over the next decade.
Solutions, small and large
The study suggests ways to maximize what already exists:
- Share information about projects that will improve walkability on Grand River and Farmington Road.
- Share "insider" parking tips in connection with promoting downtown events.
- Emphasize to employees the importance of parking in non-timed lots, freeing up space for customer parking closer to businesses.
The study also looked at building more space for parking. Vidor said criteria for potential parking deck sites included easy accessibility for vehicles, less than a 5-minute walk to shopping and restaurants, a line of sight from parking to destination, and "preferably on city-owned land."
Several locations – publicly owned lots on Orchard Street (behind Fresh Thyme) and lots north of Grand River and east of Farmington Road (in the Downtown Farmington Center) – didn't fit the bill. Vidor said building just east of the Farmington Community Library Farmington branch could improve the parking picture by 200 spaces, but each would cost $20,000-$25,000, creating a $4.2 million-$5.25 million overall price tag.
"What we don't know…and haven't looked at is financing and a source of funds to pay the debt service or the long-term costs of operations and maintenance," Vidor said, noting the study presents "concepts and opportunities."
Stronger enforcement of time-limited parking, he said, could free up 70 parking spaces, and "that's a $1.4 million cost avoidance." While it wouldn't eliminate the need for more parking, it could give the city some time to understand and study its options, which could include repurposing the City Hall site on Liberty Street.
So what will city officials do with the Walker parking study? Council member Greg Cowley said it will be a "major element" of a five-year Captial Improvement Plan currently under development.
"We have to figure out how to pay for infrastructure, parking included, without raising taxes," he said.
Mayor Bill Galvin wants to see a "civic engagement project" to identify the city's funding capacity.
"The question is can our city afford a $5 million project," he said. "If we don't want to address the capacity issue, then we have to acknowledge this is it."
Galvin said he believes residents enjoy the city's increasing vibrancy and will want to increase capacity.
To take a look at the Walker parking study, visit downtownfarmington.org.
Correction: One of the lots deemed unsuitable was misidentified; it is east of Farmington Road.