“This is part of the supplemental LCI grant we’ve received for the year,” said Adam Causey, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority.
A group of consultants from Walter P. Moore, a structural engineering and parking consulting company, came to the meeting to facilitate discussion.
David Moore, from the consulting company, said the four primary criteria for revising the parking situation are location, design and safety, demand and feasibility. He wanted to get local businesspeople involved in the discussion and had a meeting earlier that day in which several participated.
Hunt Slade, owner of Safe House Coffee and Tea, said his business attracts many people downtown. He said he collects and pays the parking tickets his customers accrue for spending hours at his shop because he does not want his customers being penalized for what the stakeholders want them to do - spend time and money downtown.
Rob Maroney, one of the consultants, said the parking situation is not one-size-fits-all. Moore asked if it was reasonable for Slade to educate his customers on how they can use the parking deck near One Griffin Center. Slade said this was reasonable, although he said there’s a lot of obsolete signage in the deck that makes it confusing as to where people can park within the deck. Moore said he has spoken with Causey about the wisdom of having city employees park at the top of the deck, leaving the lower levels for visitors to downtown, and said many businesspeople are not aware the general public can park in the deck.
Paul Cropsey said the Main Street Program has been working on downtown parking for many years. He suggested reserving spaces for particular businesses, preferably in alleyways instead of on the streets, and putting lighting and murals in the alleys to make them safer and friendlier. He said they need to convince people the remote lots in the city are good places to park.
Businessman Allen Marshall said there is a lot of “hidden parking” downtown and this parking should be made better known. However, he said employees at his restaurant, Madame’s Fine Dining, do not feel safe parking in the alleyways or behind the building at night.
Griffin-Spalding Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bonnie Pfrogner agreed with Cropsey and Marshall. She said the public parking lots downtown need to be made more aesthetically pleasing so people are more willing to park in lots linked to downtown by alleyways. She said the presence of churches and the revamping of the Griffin Regional Welcome Center have made people feel safer parking in the Hill Street/Broad Street area after dark.
Next came the discussion about how to pay for any upgrades. City Manager Kenny Smith asked if the downtown businesses would be willing to pay a tax to fund parking improvements, while Pfronger suggested kiosks with advertising that could be used to help pay for improvements. Slade asked if Smith was proposing a 1 to 3 mill tax district and when Smith said he was, Slade said he could support such a proposal.