Drivers cruising Santa Fe are familiar with the problem: attractive shops, great restaurants, interesting one-of-a-kind stores.
And no place to park.
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“The punch line is yes, you do have a parking problem. You have a lot of spaces, just not where you want them to be,” said Jason Schrieber, a consultant with the traffic specialist firm Nelson\|Nygaard out of Boston.
Schrieber belongs to one piece of a group that began studying the parking issue this past summer. Monday evening at the Matt Ross Community Center, about 25 people gathered to discuss it further.
The study has counted an inventory of the parking spaces in old downtown Overland Park. There are 2,196 spots, both on-street and in parking lots, with 1,200 underused private parking spaces.
The consultants said a parking garage — under discussion in Overland Park — is not needed for years. What is needed now, the consultants said, is to take advantage of those “unused” private parking spaces with shared parking.
“We need to partner with bank parking lots, supply stores, whatever, to maximize the public’s use of their parking lots. Parking is a hurdle for downtown development,” said Schreiber.
The consultants who attended the group meeting said parking in the old downtown area needs to be made more attractive.
“Today we have enough parking spaces. But there’s not enough of the top spaces,” said Thomas Morefield, a Kansas City architect with the firm BNIM. “But we can improve what we have with paint and signage. Putting new paint on the road is not expensive. Simple signage doesn’t have to be expensive.”
Some residents close to downtown grasped the parking spaces/new development connection.
“It seems if you make parking more attractive on those streets next to Santa Fe, businesses would expand,” said Janiece Vohland, who bought a home near downtown several years ago.
The group also tossed around the idea of parking garages. But most at the meeting saw it as a long-term solution.
“The problem with a garage is it won’t spread the availability of parking around the area,” said Schrieber, the consultant, adding that a parking garage is massively expensive.
The study also identified types of motorists. With all the new restaurants downtown, diners want to park steps away from their eateries. And if they do land a spot in front, their cars will sit there for an hour or more, frustrating shoppers who want to slide into a parking spot a few feet away from their favorite shop, run in and pick up an item. Consultants said the solution is to find a way to keep the motorists near their destinations turning over the cars every 15 minutes or so. Consultants would do this by restaurants sharing a parking lot nearby — and timed parking on the street.
The consultants were paid $122,000, with $45,000 coming from the city and the rest with matching funds and contributions from business owners.
Most of those at the presentation agreed that shared parking was a good idea.