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Business Owners Meet to Discuss Downtown Charlottesville Parking

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The Water Street Garage in downtown Charlottesville The Water Street Garage in downtown Charlottesville
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

A number of business owners on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall concerned about their bottom lines are taking up parking concerns. This all stems from the uncertainty surrounding the Water Street Parking Garage.

The two groups with stakes in the garage, the city and the Charlottesville Parking Center (CPC), have pending lawsuits dealing with the garage's rates and management.

Now, the hot commodity that is parking in downtown Charlottesville is blowing up.

Bill Banowsky, owner of the Violet Crown Cinema, says the theater wouldn't have come to the Downtown Mall if he expected parking to be an issue.

“All of the businesses down here depend upon affordable parking,” said Banowsky.

CPC owner Mark Brown asked the city to sell its stake in the Water Street Garage to his private, for-profit company.

This comes after the CPC sued the city of Charlottesville when it wouldn't let the CPC raise its prices.

“The city has counter sued the CPC. There's litigation that will have to sort itself out, but one resolution should not be, we believe and the petition states, is to sell these parking spaces because it would be like selling a public park. It’s a public asset,” stated Banowsky.

Thursday night, concerned downtown business owners, property owners, and customers met at the Violet Crown. The more than 60 people there agreed unanimously the city should not sell its parking spots.

“Because of the city validation system that's been in place for 40 years, it is affordable for the businesses to validate so their customers can park for free,” Banowsky said.

The group of downtown businesses started a petition to ask the city not to give up its stake in the Water Street Garage.

The Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville Vice Chair Joan Fenton says a lot of business owners feel the city should subsidize parking rates.

“So that they then can get the income out of the businesses, out of the taxes, out of providing jobs, and that just as they've subsidized other things, it behooves them to be a partner in some of the parking down here,” she said.

Up to this point, many of the city's discussions about the lawsuits and parking downtown have been behind closed doors.

“You don't want the word to get out about where we would be thinking about building a parking garage. If a landowner on the, say, east end of the mall realizes the city wants to build a parking garage there, his asking price is going to skyrocket. It’ll be a couple million dollars more for the citizens to pay,” said Charlottesville City Councilor Bob Fenwick.

In a statement, the city says it wants to emphasize there is no parking crisis downtown. It also says it remains committed to supporting downtown businesses by protecting the parking validation program.

Some city leaders are expected to sit down with several downtown business owners early next week.

CPC’s owner said he couldn't comment because of the ongoing litigation.

Statement from the City of Charlottesville:

The City is working diligently on several fronts to address long term parking needs in Downtown and Midtown. For Charlottesville, like many other cities, parking is a complex challenge with multiple moving parts.

It is important to emphasize that despite increased recent attention, we do not have a parking crisis in Downtown. In fact, studies and our own internal analysis shows we have ample parking to meet today’s demand and the demand for years to come.

However, we also recognize the importance of preparing for the future, which is why Council commissioned a parking study in 2015 to examine our challenges and opportunities as part of a long-term strategy for parking.

That strategy has several components:

  • The study strongly recommended improving the management of our on-street parking spaces to provide more opportunities for people to park in downtown. The City Council has taken several important steps in implementing the recommendations from the study, which we believe will result in more efficient use of the spaces in our commercial districts.
  • The City is also developing strategies for the addition of new parking spaces in Downtown and along West Main Street. 
  • In addition, we are exploring the continued expansion of alternative mobility options including enhanced transit, bicycle facilities and car sharing systems.
  • We remain committed to supporting local businesses by protecting current and future parking validation programs.
  • We are working closely with Albemarle County to address their long term parking needs related to their court system.
  • This year, Council will consider the creation of a Parking Division to manage our parking needs.
  • We will continue to defend ourselves against litigation but remain resolutely committed to the goal of providing affordable and accessible parking to those who work in and visit our commercial districts.  

For more information and a series of FAQs please visit www.charlottesville.org/parking

As we continue to execute our strategy, we are eager to hear from stakeholders, including DBAC, and we encourage everyone to stay involved with this critical issue. Interested parties can reach out to City Council individually or collectively at council@charlottesville.org and to the City Manager at jonesm@charlottesville.org.

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