Town Center businesses mull parking survey, changes

City is considering eliminating the center lane on S.E. 28th Street in front of QFC

Adding street parking in front of Maggie Moos and Noah’s Bagels is one idea being considered to alleviate the parking shortage in the Town Center. That, time limits and more enforcement were all generally supported by a handful of Town Center business owners during a discussion with city planners last week.

On Oct. 14, local business owners and city officials sat down to share what they thought about improving the parking situation downtown. The city is considering changes, and Development Services Director Steve Lancaster said he plans to bring a proposal before the City Council in late November.

Based on the results of a traffic survey completed last summer, the city is considering adding several on-street parking spots. Another change being considered is imposing time limits to some public street parking. The Island’s Chamber of Commerce also participated in the discussion.

In general, the group seemed supportive of changes under consideration for S.E. 28th Street that would roughly add 15 new parking spots in front of Maggie Moos and Noah’s Bagels. The city could remove the shared center turn lane to stripe the angled parking spaces, Lancaster showed on a graphic. The group also liked the idea of limiting parking times if it would help business and be enforced by police.

“This is a good balance between the commuters who need the parking and the workers,” said Susan Skone, the owner of the Auto Spa on 80th Avenue S.E., at the corner of S.E. 28th Street.

Lancaster said his engineers will be looking at ways to help employees and shoppers find parking. He said he was aware that any changes could hurt employees reliant on street parking.

“One of the trade-offs we have been talking about is that while helping businesses from a customer standpoint, there may be a negative impact coming from an employee standpoint,” said Lancaster.

Last summer, traffic consultants completed a usage survey of the available parking in the Town Center during its peak-use hour. The survey showed that parking was full in the Town Center during the noon hour and suggested that the city should consider freeing up some parking capacity, Lancaster said.

THE LACK of parking has been an issue for the Town Center dating back to the redevelopment projects beginning in 2004. As city leaders changed development codes envisioning a pedestrian-friendly downtown, there have been some roadblocks to getting there. Construction workers, cafe patrons, commuters and shoppers flood available parking.

While a unified system of shared parking between private lot owners and street parking may be the dream of city officials, Lancaster said he hopes any changes to public street parking that the City Council approves would help retailers.

Letters submitted to the Chamber — from owners who could not attend the discussion — contained a few suggestions not mentioned among the others. One letter indicated that the owner supports time limits as long as they are actively enforced by police because it would help business. Another stated that two hours would not be enough time and suggested that a three-hour limit would allow shoppers to get a bite to eat while visiting the Town Center. A third letter stated that a city parking lot reserved for shoppers would best resolve the issue.

Another idea discussed at last Tuesday’s meeting was to exempt Island residents who obtain a permit from some of the proposed two-hour limit zones. That would allow residents to ride the bus from the Park-and-Ride if that lot is full or run more errands while in the Town Center without having to move the car. The group also talked about the future of the Sunset Highway once it reopens after the completion of two mixed-use projects currently under construction. Lancaster said it was his understanding that the cul-de-sac adjacent to Tully’s was primarily used by Islanders using the Park-and-Ride, since it is an Islander permit-only area.

“We’d want to retain that,” Lancaster said of when the road opens up again a year from now.

The development services director also said that he would look at adding parallel parking on the Sunset Highway after it reopens.

“There is some sympathy to Island residents who want to use the bus,” Lancaster said of using street parking on Sunset Highway as additional parking for Islanders, as the Park-and-Ride lot routinely fills up early on weekdays. “We want to encourage bus use.”

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