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Charlottesville Seeking Other Ways to Pay for Improving Downtown Parking

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Members of the PLACE Design Task Force meeting in Charlottesville Members of the PLACE Design Task Force meeting in Charlottesville
City Parking Manager Rick Siebert City Parking Manager Rick Siebert
Lucky 7 convenience store on E. Market Street in Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE) Lucky 7 convenience store on E. Market Street in Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE)
Parking meter along Market Street in Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE) Parking meter along Market Street in Charlottesville (FILE IMAGE)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Charlottesville officials are discussing the next steps for solving parking issues, now the meters - and that the revenue they were going to generate - are gone.

City Parking Manager Rick Siebert gave members of the PLACE (Place making, Livability And Community Engagement) Design Task Force options for improving parking in the downtown area during a meeting Thursday, February 8.

Siebert was hired in September 2016 to lead the city's Parking Action Plan. His hope was the metered program would free up spots on the street, as well as bring in money for a parking enterprise fund. Those funds would then go towards building a new parking garage along Market Street, in a lot currently occupied by Lucky 7 convenience store and the Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant.

The meter program lasted 72 days, and cost Charlottesville around $50,000. The program, which saw several suspensions during its run, ended up generating a profit for the city of around $1,200.

Siebert says building the new parking garage would cost roughly $10 million.

"If we had continued the [meter] program, if we had been able to purchase the meters for instance, we would have eliminated the rent that we paid during the pilot period and we probably would have been generating instead something like $10,000 a month, in operating revenue," he said.

Siebert added, “We really don’t have any plan currently for any additional revenue.”

Charlottesville spent roughly $2.85 million in late 2016 for the Market Street lot.

"We have a piece of property that was purchased about the time I was hired - about 14 months ago - that we plan to redevelop for public parking. One of the things is we need to look at how much parking we ought to put in there, what types of project ought to go on that piece of property. So I’m exploring that with my boss, the director of economic development," said Siebert.

City taxpayers - including businesses around Barracks Road - may have to undergo tax increases to help fund downtown parking.

“In the end, everybody pays for everything and it’s how you frame it, how you look at it,” said Downtown Business Association Chair Joan Fenton.

Fenton says the Downtown Mall brings in 10 times more taxable income for Charlottesville than the city spends on maintaining the mall.

Fenton says Downtown businesses want a free garage to help them compete with shopping centers: “They're wondering why the city hasn't started doing it already, that there is a need they'd like to see it happen,” she said.

Now, Siebert says Charlottesville has limited options: the city can make parking enforcement more consistent so people follow the 2-hour limit, or it can choose to go forward with plans build the new parking garage on Market Street.

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