Several hundred new parking spaces could be coming to the downtown area soon. The Auburn City Council has approved a new parking lot on South College Street and is in preliminary negotiations to build a new parking deck in the downtown area.
At their meeting Tuesday night, the Council approved a resolution to allow for the development of a private 44-space parking lot on South College Street where Price’s Barbecue was located.
Interim City Manager Jim Buston also presented the Auburn City Planning Department’s ideas to address parking issues in downtown
He suggested construction of parking decks, raising parking fees from 25 cents to a dollar per hour, raising the price of parking tickets, finding an area for downtown business employees to park separately, implementing valet parking to downtown and/or creating a position within the Auburn Police Division to enforce downtown parking at all times of the day.
“What we are talking about doing should increase the number of spaces we have for public parking considerably," Buston said. "Right now, we have defined 608 parking spaces for public parking downtown. What we are going to be recommending to the Council for their deliberation could almost double that number.”
Part of that plan includes a new parking deck in the downtown area that is in the works. Buston said he couldn't reveal the individual, but the city is negotiating with someone to purchase their property to build a new parking deck. The location of that proposed deck is unknown, but it would be downtown.
There are approximately 738 public metered parking spaces in the downtown area, with 393 being on-street parking and 345 being off-street parking in decks and lots. There was a plan last year to redevelop the Municipal Parking Deck on Gay Street into a new 730-space parking garage along with a boutique hotel and urban grocery but that plan fell through last summer.
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The new parking deck in addition to other city plans could add more than 700 spaces to the downtown area.
Mayor Bill Ham said that he has been in talks with Auburn University President Jay Gogue concerning the lack of parking downtown and believes that working with the University is necessary to address the issue.
“I can tell you that [Gogue] is on board and believes that this is something that we need to collectively look at,” Ham said. “My belief is we’ve got to have some immediate relief for the downtown merchants.”
Several downtown business owners spoke during citizen's communications to express their desires for the Council to address downtown parking.
“I get verbally attacked every day at my shop by people who come in there and have been towed because they think I’m doing it,” said Stephen Prestridge, owner of Dimensions Studio. “People are left with no choices. It’s not about where they park, it’s about availability…Tickets and fees are not preventing people from coming here, it’s available parking.”
This talks on parking came after the CEO of the ETC Institute Chris Tatham presented the results of an annual citizen satisfaction survey to Auburn’s Committee of the Whole.
According to the survey’s findings, citizen satisfaction with traffic flow and parking in Auburn is 11 percent below the national average, while 66 percent of surveyed Auburn citizens listed traffic flow and congestion as the most important issue that needs to be addressed. Only 6 percent were "satisfied" with parking in Auburn.
Tatham said that the biggest decrease in citizen satisfaction compared to last year’s survey results was the availability of parking in downtown and the appearance of downtown.
"I know that [the Council] has been working on that, but that’s an area that residents are concerned about,” Tatham said.
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