Is Limited Parking hurting Investments Downtown?

Reprint from Richmond Register
Bill Robinson/
March 8, 2016


downtown-richmond2The city of Richmond and the Madison Fiscal Court both own parking lots one just block from the city’s Main Street.

The city also owns parking lots next to City Hall at the corner of Main and Third streets and another on Irvine Street behind City Hall.

In addition to the City Hall lots, the city owns a parking lot behind the Glyndon Hotel at Water and Third streets, while another City Hall lot is across Main Street from the former hotel. The county’s lot is opposite the courthouse at First and Irvine streets.

downtown-richmond3Development advocates believe turning one of those into a multi-level parking garage would draw retail investors to the city’s core.

When the Richmond Chamber of Commerce presented its 2016 goals to the city commission earlier this year, development of a downtown parking garage was among them.

In Owensboro, the community action partnership, which operates a regional transit system, received a federal grant that paid for most of a structure that included offices for the agency plus storage/service space for its buses as well as a public parking garage.

Executive Director Mendi Goble said chamber leaders hope a similar structure could be constructed for the Richmond-based Kentucky River Foothills Partnership.

downtown-richmond4The agency operates transit services for Eastern Kentucky University, and both Madison County cities, as well as a shuttle between the two cities. It also offers similar services in other counties.

Melissa Gross, director of program planning for Kentucky River Foothills, said the agency would be interested in applying for a transportation grant if it had community backing.

However, the 2016 grant deadline is next month. And with such a project in only the early talking stages, there probably isn’t enough time to put an application together with enough of the specifics that a federal agency would demand, she added.

Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes said Monday, he doubts if a downtown parking garage a block or more for Main Street would spur business development.

“We have trouble just getting people to walk across the street, much less a block or more,” he said.

Leaders of other cities that have built downtown parking garages have told him they are ineffective unless on a main street, the mayor said. However, the City Hall lot occupies a corner of Main Street.

The mayor also was skeptical about a bus service center downtown.

“I don’t know that you would want a facility that would bring 20 or so buses downtown each week day,” Barnes said.

But if a specific developer with a binding agreement to make a large investment in downtown, the mayor said he might be more receptive to the city being a partner in parking garage project.

The Owensboro parking garage works, Barnes said, because it is near a regional convention center.

Some downtown promoters have said potential buyers of vacant downtown buildings, such as the former Glyndon Hotel and the adjacent J.C. Penney building, would be more likely to make such a commitment if they were assured of adequate parking.

However, any purchaser of the Glyndon/J.C. Penney properties would first have to pay off about $27,745 in county property tax liens filed against them. The county has sold the liens, as required by law, to five different investors. The property was re-assessed prior to the 2013 tax billing at $500,000. The previous assessment was $210,000.

The City Hall parking lot would meet the mayor’s requirement of a Main Street garage and also be across the street from the Glyndon Hotel, said David Gannon, president of the Downtown Richmond Association.

Gannon, who operates an investment firm downtown, said he knows of two large investors who have looked at the city’s core business district, but were reluctant to invest because of the lack of parking.

Even with the limited parking available, Gannon said small businesses are still attracted downtown.

The Shoe Doctor has opened on South Second Street, and Artisan Hotdogs, also on South Second, will open in the former Dale’s Hotdogs location Wednesday, Gannon said.

Also, Meet on Main, a conference, party and reception hall, will be opening soon, next to Cafe Meeples in the 200 block of West Main, he added.

Barnes said no one has made a formal proposal to the city for a parking garage, and he could respond more specifically after he receives one.

Gannon said Downtown Association leaders will be meeting with the mayor later this week to discuss their ideas.

Madison Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor said he would be open to discussion of a parking garage and transit center on the county’s property at First and Irvine streets. However, some accommodation of the county’s interests would have to be made for it to make the property available, he added.

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