The space race

City has room for parking but finding it can be a challenge

JANELLE PATTERSON   The Marietta Times
Shoppers flock to the sidewalks of Marietta’s downtown business district Friday.

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times Shoppers flock to the sidewalks of Marietta’s downtown business district Friday.

A common complaint Marietta shop owners hear when patrons visit their stores is regarding a lack of parking within a reasonable distance from their doors.

“You hear all the time that there’s no parking,” said Jennifer Sturgill, owner of Green Acres on Front Street. “But I have parking in the back that doesn’t get utilized.”

In fact there’s more than 4,000 available spots, according to the most recent inventory by Buckeye Hills Regional Council and a Geographic Information Systems class at Marietta College.

Marietta’s downtown business district spans from Fourth Street southwest to Front Street and from Ohio Street northwest to Scammel Street with also a small pocket in Harmar Village.

Buckeye Hills Regional Council and the class digitally mapped the district and inventoried all available parking in the area.

“It’s a common complaint you hear in the city, when you’re walking around downtown or even from neighbors,” said Bret Allphin, development director for Buckeye Hills. “So we kicked off this project last fall to inventory what parking is truly available and how far people are actually walking.”

In conjunction with History Professor Matt Young, and Buckeye Hills Geographic Information Systems Coordinator Jason Pyles, the project began, mapping and documenting city-owned, county-owned

and privately-owned parking throughout the business district.

“Each student got their own section to digitize any parking and go out and do a field study,” explained Allphin.

Pyles explained that he set up the software as an empty data set for Young’s students to draw out where lots, on-street and structures for parking exist.

“Everywhere that is mapped there were either cars parked there or there were lines for parking,” he explained.

The inventory found 4,403 parking spots downtown, including 795 available spaces in the business district of Harmar.

“The idea of this data collection is that the city could then use it as a basis for further studies and add data like occupancy or other sets,” said Allphin.

Conversely, at the

Antique Mall of Marietta at the corner of Second and Butler streets, shop workers often have to remind drivers that the lot outside their building is private and for their patrons only.

“We only have so many spaces,” said Wanda Townsend, who works at the store. “If people park here for hours and walk downtown then we don’t have spots for our customers.”

Instead, Townsend said, she sends them to park in the lot at the corner of Butler and Front streets.

“But people often don’t even want to pay the $2 for that spot,” she said.

Allphin said private lots like that of the Antique Mall are accounted for in the inventory, but still are included in the overall number.

“We also included places that could be reasonably assumed to provide parking, though they may be owned spaces for offices or loft apartments,” he explained. “But this shows to me that there is not a supply problem. Though there may be the feeling that you have to park far away, compare that walk to what you do on the weekend at the mall.”

That’s just what Allphin and Pyles did in addition to the inventory. They compared the available parking and distance to the parking lot and area covered by Grand Central Mall in Vienna.

“The idea is that if you can park by Sears and walk all the way to JC Penney and back and then out to your car, you’re walking less distance from the Parking Partners Lot (on Second Street) to Austyn’s,” Allphin said.

He said additional study and conclusions can be drawn from the data in time, and that the city could use the information in long-range planning, grant proposals and a starting point for future studies of walkability.

Laura Pytlik, owner of Wit and Whimzy on Front Street, said she understands the perception of distance.

“I read a study that said it seems farther away when you can’t see your destination,” she said. “I think there’s adequate parking but I get the frustration if it’s pouring outside or if you just want to run in and out of a store or you’re carrying a lot of packages.”

Both Pytlik and Sturgill suggested making Front Street a two-lane street instead of a four-lane road and adding diagonal parking spaces along both sides of the street.

“From my vantage point I actually see drivers accelerate as they approach the crosswalk in front of the shop,” noted Pytlik.

“It would be a traffic calming measure,” said Sturgill. “And I think it would be more welcoming.”

But for now, visitors from Wooster, John and Kathy Dechant, and from Dublin, Claudia and Thad Plumley, said the parking is sufficient and they enjoyed being able to park by the Lafayette Hotel and walk around town on Friday.

“We come down here as our getaway place,” said John Dechant. “We love walking around here and going in the shops.”

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