Parking lots


The Shockoe Ballpark proposal has a new ally.  Time will tell if it’s a new and also powerful ally.  His name is Del. G. Manoli Loupassi,who has proposed a bill in the General Assembly to fund a ballpark with tax dollars. I don’t remember his role in the ballpark planning while he represented the 1st District on city council.

According to today’s Times-Dispatch:

The proposal would apply only to the state’s 4 percent portion of sales taxes generated by the stadium and structures associated with it, potentially hotels and retail and office space.

Diverting tax money from the development to pay off the development seems like a good financing plan to me.  The devil is in the details, however.

It was unclear yesterday exactly how much money might be available and what would happen if revenues aren’t sufficient to cover bond payments. Officials with Richmond Baseball Club LC, a group led by Highwoods Properties, said they would elaborate today.

In another, perhaps more interesting development, the ballpark development group has hired state Sen. Henry L. Marsh III as their lobbyist.

Marsh, as many of you know, represents Richmond in the state Sentate, is a former Richmond mayor, and mentor to new General Assembly delegate Delores McQuinn.

Delegate McQuinn is the political sponsor of the Richmond City Counil’s Slave Trail Commission.  The word on the street is that she will not be giving up her seat on the commission as she moves from city to state politician.

My hope is that the McQuinn-Marsh relationship will help advance the cause of memorializing the ugly history of Shockoe, which the Slave Trail Commission has championed effectively,  and not subsume that important effort to other political goals. Because as much as I’d like to see surface lots in Shockoe disappear and life returned to that neighborhood, I’d like even more to see the hsitory that’s been paved over for so long properly acknowledged.

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While things are not going swimmingly for the Boulevard redevelopment, Shockoe continues to receive development proposals. Read the latest details and see pictures for a mixed-use development at Cedar and Broad (near the McDonald’s & Exxon) over at Church Hill People’s News.

The proposal, which is in its early stages, includes over 160 apartments, a rooftop pool, 5000 sq. ft. of retail, & courtyard parking (which helps mitigate the visual effect of our overabundance of cars on the urban landscape).

This will complement the redevelopment of Cold Storage into lofts and a brewery, the Sisson building, as well as the continuing conversion of other warehouses around Shockoe.

Predictably, the Church Hill People’s News commenters are concerned about their view and parking. The architects have done a great job in the proposal of hiding unsightly HVAC vents & units, and hiding parking in the courtyard. However, since MCV commuters currently use the parking lot on the site of the development, residents are concerned about where those students will park once that lot is gone.

While I understand the problem (which Carver, Oregon Hill, & the Fan have been dealing with for years), there are solutions other than opposing the development or advocating for surface parking lots. The Fan and Carver have decal parking; MCV has a number of pay parking lots and decks served by a well-developed shuttle system.

The folks currently parking in the lot near the McDonald’s and the streets in Shockoe are looking for a less expensive parking option. Keep providing cheap or free parking, and people will use it.

We should be celebrating the conversion of any and every surface parking lot into a more useful, (hopefully) beautiful space. Let’s figure out parking dilemmas in other ways- rather than preserving the status quo.

For more on parking lots in Shockoe, read my commentary, “No More Parking Lots, a Desperate Plea.”

Style ran a complaint letter today from a west ender who made her request known for improving Shockoe Bottom [emphasis mine]:

What I and all of my group want is not anything different than what is already being offered, it is improvement on what is being offered, with the main component being parking and free parking. Everyone in the West End I talk to wonders why no one gets it.

One of the main features that separates cities from suburbs is density. Stores, offices & housing are located close together, creating a visually interesting landscape. And more importantly, density makes it possible to walk from one shop to another, or from your house to your office. Density also makes transit economically feasible.

Parking lots tear holes in the urban fabric, make it harder to walk from one place to another, create stormwater runoff, contribute to the urban heat island effect, and are generally unpleasant to look at.

Shockoe Bottom is not a strip mall. It’s not a mall at all. It’s part of the urban fabric, and as such, driving from the suburbs and parking for free should not be its main goal. Shockoe shouldn’t look like this:

hell.gif

Downtown is already saturated with parking lots.

Everyone I talk to who lives in the city wonders why suburbanites don’t get it. If you want “parking and free parking,” don’t come downtown- go to the suburbs. There’s plenty of bars and clubs there.

There are already entire city blocks in the Bottom dedicated to nothing but parking. Don’t further destroy our city to cater to those addicted to their cars.

Unfortunately, according to Style, some of our urban businesses are struggling financially so much that they want to create suburbia in the midst of downtown:

…some merchants are working on solutions to the parking dilemma because this is the complaint they hear most often, from Carytown to Church Hill… As they fight off the suburban franchise mentality, many realize that those vast, treeless shopping mall parking lots are often what separates red and black on the bottom line.

Show them this.

The magic number is 93.

Here’s part 1.

The Capital Region Airport Commission, which operates Richmond International Airport, has been leasing land it owns to Henrico Co. for use as a park-and-ride lot for use by bus and carpool commuters. The lease has been $1 per year since 1984, according to the TD.

The FAA, however, has a rule barring below-market leases. So the park-and-ride lot will move.

This, to me, is an example of bureaucracy killing common sense community-oriented policies. If the Airport Commission wants to donate its land to improve transit in their community, why shouldn’t they be allowed to? Bureaucratic regulations are necessarily blunt instruments that always have unintended consequences, but it’s especially disheartening when those consequences hurt well-intentioned efforts.

And unfortunately, this bureaucratic rule by the FAA is making it more difficult to decrease our dependency on automobiles.

Ground breaking has been set for Richmond’s newest addition to downtown: corporate headquarters for MeadWestvaco. Below are pictures of the site and the renderings for the new buildings. But first, details from Richmond.com:

MeadWestvaco will break ground at the site of the company’s new corporate headquarters in downtown Richmond May 21 at 10 a.m. Speeches from Gov. Tim Kaine, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder and MeadWestvaco chairman and CEO John A. Luke Jr. will precede the ceremonial groundbreaking at Byrd Street between 5th and 7th streets, which is currently the site of the Federal Reserve Bank parking lot.

The site of the new building:

Riverfront parking

The proposed rendering for the MeadWestvaco HQ:

mwvhq.jpg

And finally, the proposed rendering for the Parking Deck to be constructed on Byrd St.:

parking.jpg
Image from Richmondcitywatch.com

The parking deck will serve as a replacement for the parking lot that’s being developed.

Also, the owners of this site – whom MeadWestvaco is leasing property from – have indicated they may develop the rest of the site for other uses, depending on the market. Ideas floated include dining and entertainment venues, mid- or high-rise condos, a boutique hotel, and more office space. The developers said, however, that they’re “going to be patient with how we go about developing it.”* In other words, we won’t see anything else there for a while. But by 2009, we should have a new building in place of a surface parking lot which fronts on the canal!

*The TD article with this quote seems to be inaccessible from the new InRich.com site.

Apparently a new restaurant in Church Hill (25th and M) is being held hostage by our society’s addiction to cars. According to church hill people’s news, Que Pasa- a Cuban, S. American, and Puerto Rican restaurant all rolled into one- is simply awaiting a Certificate of Occupancy before it can open. The holdup? The city requires businesses to have parking. And a shared parking arrangement already in place is, apparently, not good enough. From chpn.net:

As a sit-down restaurant, the business is required to have a certain number of parking spots available. To meet this requirement, Sanchez has arranged to rent parking spots from the city-owned EDI directly across M Street. This was an arrangment agreed to by the Mayor and approved unanimously by the City Council. As the restuarant will only be open evening and weekends, when demand is low at EDI, this should not be a problem.

The newish Commissioner of Buildings for the Department of Community Development, Art Dahlberg (scroll to the 2nd bio)(Dahlbead@ci.richmond.va.us, 646-6624), has apparently decided that this arrangement is illegal, and will not issue the Certificate of Occupancy.

Seriously, does the city want to destroy some historic buildings and pave over the lot to make room for cars?

I have serious issues with a policy that requires parking for every business. I’m not a rabid free-market kind of person, but this is one instance where I think it should be up to the market to decide how much parking a business needs. Isn’t it in the business owner’s interest to figure that out? If she needs more parking, the owner will find it. If not, why is the city requiring it?

I’m sure part of the reason involves not wanting to overwhelm residential neighborhoods with parking problems, but there are so many ways to solve that. Neighborhood parking permits, or time restricted parking would solve that problem.

This particular restaurant is in a dense, walkable, urban neighborhood. It’s on a bus route. And it’s found parking to share with someone else. Let them open. And better yet, kill the parking requirements.

Portland, Oregon did just that to revitalize their warehouse/arts district: the Pearl District. The city built a few parking garages and removed requirements for individual businesses and residential developers to provide parking. They built a streetcar, which is free within the downtown and Pearl Districts. And the neighborhood came to life with more than 50 restaurants, 10+ condo buildings, 30 art galleries, 60 furniture/antique shops, as well as national chain stores like REI & North Face. Richmond should take note. Stop destroying our historic architecture and decreasing density to make space for cars.

And on an activist note, again from chpn.net: “Sanchez is asking that you stop by the restaurant and sign their petition, and to contact Dahlberg and Mayor Wilder (wilderld@ci.richmond.va.us, 646-7970) to register your support for the opening of the restaurant.”

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