Downtown Dover Partnership seeks input on downtown parking problems

DOVER — Members of the Downtown Dover Partnership say they realize parking downtown can seem like a moving target when it comes to merchants and the general public.

Diane Laird, executive director for the DDP, said that’s why they are inviting downtown business owners and the general public to attend its monthly meeting at 8 this morning in the CenDel Building, located at 101 Loockerman St.

Members of the partnership are hoping to receive some brief input and possible solutions to the concerns and difficulties when it comes to parking downtown. Comments will be received at the beginning of the meeting.

“As we grow there will be parking changes and the concerns are to ensure that customers have reasonable parking options,” Ms. Laird said. “This meeting is to hear from merchants and the public to find out where they may be concerns in regard to convenience and walkability.”

The DDP instituted several new parking changes for 2019 in January, including:

• The Loockerman Way Lot (behind the Santa House) is now a metered only lot.

• The Bradford/Minor Lot is now completely permit parking only and motorists must have a blue parking pass to park in the lot. There is no longer metered parking, free two-hour parking or 15-minute parking in the lot.

• The Governors Avenue Lot is parking by permit and motorists must have a yellow parking pass. There is also free two-hour parking in the lot.

• The on-street parking remains free two-hour parking for downtown business customers only.

• There is no public parking in the North Street Lot as this is now a private parking lot and is no longer managed by the DDP.

Tina Bradbury, operations manager for the DDP, preached patience when the parking changes were announced.

“I know this may be uncomfortable for some, however, please know we are doing our best to adjust with all the changes as we grow here in downtown Dover,” Ms. Bradbury said. “We ask that you all bear with us as we go through the current and future changes and know that we are working with the city to bring about a solution and create plenty of parking downtown, so that we can continue to grow and attract future economic development projects.”

The city of Dover remains in the beginning stages of building a parking garage that will serve the downtown area businesses, however, a parking structure remains a couple of years away.

City Planner Dave Hugg believes a parking garage could be a spark that might help to revitalize downtown Dover.

“I think a parking garage would solve a lot of problems that downtown Dover businesses are facing and would give people a safe environment with which to park their cars,” Mr. Hugg said. “I believe a parking garage is something that the city needs to pursue if it is going to experience a revitalization of the downtown area.”

However, a recent study for the Dover/Kent County Metropolitan Planning Organization, conducted by Langan Engineering of Philadelphia, found that the combined 1,800 public and private parking spots in the downtown area are an adequate amount for a city the size of Dover.

The study also revealed that the peak rate for on-street parking is 75 percent, which occurs during the lunch hour, and other than that, the lots never approach capacity.

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff, a professor at Delaware State University, wrote in a commentary to the Delaware State News that he agrees with the Langan Engineering study that a parking garage is unnecessary.

“While DDP has made a few upgrades such as lighting and signage, there is still a need for more free space for parking,” Dr. Hoff wrote. “Additionally, there must be a way for downtown shoppers to easily traverse the streets away from the place they park.

“Neither of these will be solved by a parking garage, which will cost more to build, maintain, and secure than it is worth.”

Dr. Hoff went on to offer his suggestions for improving parking downtown.

“The combination of two ground-level covered parking areas with free spaces at each end of downtown along with Park-and-Ride buses, which would offer transportation back and forth, will both solve perceived shortcomings in parking and give Dover citizens renewed motivation to shop downtown,” he added.

“This setup could be especially effective for theme-based events in downtown. Moreover, it can be achieved with a minimum of cost. In any case, Dover officials should start thinking more about offering better parking services to Dover residents than finding ways to pick their wallets.”

In other news regarding downtown parking:

• New lighting has been installed in the Bradford/Minor Lot and the Loockerman Way Lot and is in the process of being installed in the Governors Avenue Lot.

• All parking lots and on-street parking is free on weekdays from 5 p.m. until 7 a.m. and then all day/night on weekends.

• ADA spaces (handicapped parking) in all lots is free and open to appropriate tag holders only.

Ms. Laird said this morning’s meeting is important because the DDP wants to isolate the issues that businesses and shoppers have.

She said the community is welcome to attend and offer their concerns and suggestions.

“We don’t really expect a large turnout, but we want to be sure that we’re open and hearing from everybody about what their concerns are when it comes to parking downtown,” she said. “We are listening.”

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