Dover takes first steps toward approving downtown parking garage

DOVER — City Councilman Fred Neil, who represents the Third District, said “enough is enough” at a Downtown Dover Partnership public meeting regarding parking issues in the downtown district on Tuesday morning.

Councilman Neil said the time is now to build a long-debated parking garage he believes will help solve all the perceived troubles with visiting and shopping in downtown Dover.

“The sooner the better,” he said, about building a parking garage. “The reason is, first off, the perception. The second thing is from practical experience. At this particular point in time, the people think that there is something wrong with the parking — and counting how many spaces you have doesn’t resolve it.

“I thought it was great to have this meeting, but it also emphasizes a point of having that parking garage. There’s no question that if you have people down here already and living here, they’re going to patronize these businesses.”

Apparently, the city of Dover agrees as City Planner Dave Hugg said at the meeting that a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking bids to build a downtown parking garage is in its final stages and will soon be heading out from the offices at City Hall.

“I’ve signed off on the RFP and I think (City Manager) Donna (Mitchell) signed off on it (Monday),” Mr. Hugg said. “The next step is the newspaper should get an ad from (the city) and that actually will announce the availability. They (RFPs) are actually proposals to build the parking garage and ideas with how to operate it.

“There’s a period of time after it goes out for people to submit preliminary proposals and then there’s a ranking period, and then I think the top proposals come back for a formal presentation. I think (a parking garage) will solve a lot of problems.”

Fred Neil

The normal problems such as not enough available free parking in front of retail stores on Loockerman Street, business owners and employees taking up much of the area’s parking stock, and the reluctance to walk from a parking lot located on Governor’s Avenue back to apartments and downtown shops “that is continually met with people asking for money and prostitution offers,” dominated the conversation at Tuesday’s meeting.

Eric Czerwinski, deputy director of the Air Mobility Command Museum and a former employee at the Dover Army Navy Store at 222 Loockerman St., was also not impressed by recent changes that have been instituted with downtown parking.

“The latest parking plan is simply horrible,” Mr. Czerwinski wrote in an email to the DDP. “The city not just ignored the consultant’s recommendations, but limited public parking even more, making things more confusing and ultimately eliminating any chance of getting downtown Dover back on its feet.

“A parking garage is a must and without one, downtown Dover is doomed to failure. A parking garage must be centrally located on Loockerman and be safe and secure.”

It appears as if the most popular solution was shared by Councilman Neil on Tuesday when he said, “The bottom line is we need a parking garage downtown if we want to attract business and tourism.”

Mr. Hugg concurred, saying the efforts to get the parking garage project underway are just now taking their first steps. It has been suggested that the parking garage be constructed at the current site of the Bradford Street parking lot.

Mr. Hugg thinks that business leaders are waiting for a sign to invest in Dover. He feels like the construction of a parking garage downtown could be that signal.

“I think the decision of ‘Where are we going to put a parking garage?’ is kind of the key,” he said. “It’s the one that’s going to send a positive signal and probably drive some of the development around it.

“Private investors who are interested in doing things need a signal from the city that we’re serious.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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