Downtown dilemma: Silverton council discusses parking solutions

June 2022 Posted in Business, Community

By James Day

The Silverton City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, area business leaders and city staffers all agree that downtown faces parking challenges.

June 20 folks got together via Zoom and began talking about solutions.

”This is a really hot issue right now,” said Stacy Palmer, executive director of the chamber.

“There have been some dramatic changes to downtown,” Mayor Kyle Palmer said. “Customers are concerned and business owners are concerned.”

Key parking challenges the city is facing include:

• The loss of the Eugene Field School site as an overflow lot with the beginning of construction on the new civic center.

• New businesses such as the Oregon Crafters Market, The Den food carts, the Silverton Bake Shop, Magnolia Grill and High Water Grill are attracting customers – and traffic.

• And in a bit of irony, High Water was built on what used to be a parking lot.

Community Development director Jason Gottgetreu gave a presentation that included a fresh audit of parking on streets. The city looked at weekday parking on Wednesday, June 14 and at the weekend dates of June 4, 5, 11 and 12. The occupancy rate on weekdays was 44%, with the percentage climbing to 53% on the weekend.

Gottgetreu noted that the industry standard for serious parking challenges is 85%, but he added that the Silverton numbers are skewed a bit because so much of the parking occupancy is in the downtown core and there are lots of spaces just a couple of blocks away.

Oak Street between Water and First is the most parked-up block, Gottgetreu’s audit noted, while as you head north on Water or First there are plenty of empty, free spaces.

Councilors and city staff agreed to hold public meetings “sooner rather than later” to hear resident concerns and ideas, with the new civic center sure to play a leading role.

Gottgetreu, who is project manager for the building that will house the police and other city departments, discussed publicly for the first time the current parking plans for the project. There will be 28 spaces behind the building at the A Street end of the block. A total of 31 spaces are planned for the front of the building.

What remains unclear is whether city employees will use any of the spots in front of the building because the rear lot won’t accommodate everybody.

Also up for discussion is how to use the south end of the block. The city is planning a park for the spot north of Park Street, but the design has not been finalized, and the city conceivably could use that space to add to the 31-space lot currently in the blueprints.

Also in the mix is the temporary dog park just north of A Street which also became city property when the former school site was sold. Some of those speaking at the council meeting suggested using at least a piece of that property for a temporary parking lot. Gottgetreu noted that the city does not have a “firm plan” for that site.

Ben Johnston, a developer/investor who has been a vocal advocate of addressing parking issues, was on the Zoom call and said “he was really happy to hear the discussion.”

Johnston, who put together the food cart village and remodeled the building that turned into the new bakery shop, added that it is “fantastic that you guys are taking the time to consider the issue.”

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