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City studies downtown parking

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City consultant Allison Wright of Kimley-Horn displays maps highlighting underutilized parking spaces in downtown Rocky Mount during a Tuesday workshop at the Booker T. Theater.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Thursday, February 14, 2019

City planners are looking to make the most of available downtown parking spaces.

The public got a chance Tuesday to look at maps showing parking spaces throughout the city at different times of day and during a big happening at the Event Center.

As part of the Downtown Parking Study, stakeholders met with city staff all day with a public workshop held in the afternoon into the evening at the Booker T. Theater on East Thomas Street.

The goal of the study is to determine how best to use parking to fuel downtown development, redevelopment and revitalization, said Allison Wright of Kimley-Horn, a nationwide planning and design consultant firm.

Wright surveyed parking spaces during a typical business day and on Nov. 4, the night the Harlem Globetrotters came to town to perform at the Event Center.

Wright's collected information was used to generate maps using color coding to show which spaces are used and which spaces aren't used.

During the Globetrotters visit, the two Event Center parking lots were full. The parking lot of Tri-Faith Ministries across Goldleaf Street from the Event Centet was more than two-thirds full. The rest of the spaces spread out across downtown were less than half full.

The maps have allowed city staff to figure out which spaces are underutilized, not just around the Event Center but in all of downtown, said city Engineering Director Brad Kerr.

"We're looking at where there are shortages and surpluses of parking spaces all over so we can use those spaces to unlock development," Kerr said.

Members of the public who dropped by provided good input, ideas and information, Kerr said.

When complete, the study will allow an analysis of existing parking conditions downtown and develop recommendations for future infrastructure and policy changes regarding parking in order to accommodate growth downtown, according to advanced information from city staff.

A proposed project map including two large parking garages also was on display. The maps were presented to the public during Monday's City Council meeting.

Titled the Douglas Entertainment and Business District, the maps show plans by Tennessee-based developer David Hunt to construct two parking decks, two hotels, a retail area, condos, a splash pad and a pedestrian bridge over busy train tracks.

A five-level, 500-space parking deck is planned for behind the Event Center along Altantic Avenue where St. John's A.M.E. Zion Church is now. A second parking garage with 450 spaces is planned behind a retail and residential area where Tri-Faith now sits.

A 107-room Home 2 by Hilton is planned for along Albemarle Street directly behind the Event Center.

Next to the Home 2 is an area where the Holy Hope Heritage Center sits. The area is labled Public Space on the map.

"I don't see the church, the area appears to be green space," Bob League, the city's transportation planner, said while looking over the plans during the parking study workshop.

Green space is described by the dictionary as an area of grass, trees or other vegetation set apart for recreational or aesthetic purposes in an otherwise urban environment.

In the parking lot across Ivy Street, the map shows a Courtyard at Marriott. An expected number of rooms isn't provided.

The Telegram reached out to Hunt about the maps. He said the project needed several more approvals and due diligence before he could provide further information.

The maps were prepared by California-based AW Engineering.

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