Every day I ride my bike past the sea of parking out in front of the INB. What little hope I had for development, sparked by those misleading “hotel property” signs last summer, was trounced when a friend explained that all the construction was for another surface lot. The nail in the coffin for my enthusiasm came when they demolished The Blvd. and chopped down its lone majestic willow tree. Like a digital mirage, the two can still be seen standing in Google street view to this day:
The swanky new parking comes with a price tag to match. At the peak of the Lion King frenzy, the lot appeared to be only 2/3 full at a going rate of $10 per spot. A blurb in the DSP’s Street Talk newsletter pointed me towards the master plan that was written for the Public Facilities District expansion.
Parking with Style
The new lot features sheltered, automated parking pay stations, new classic style light poles with wrought iron details on Main, 115 new trees, and solar powered lighting. Not bad for a parking lot!
While nobody can deny that the new lot is a vast improvement on the asphalt desert that preceded it, I have to wonder if this move effectively delays breaking ground on a planned multi-level structure. The Vision 20/20 plan fails to explain the rationale behind the timing of the current upgrade, stating only that the new lot will be around for about 10 years before Phase Two.
Downtown with a portion of current surface parking highlighted.
It was painfully ironic how Vision 20/20 carries on about the cultural and authentic place-seeking inclinations of Gen Y (see pages 24-25) only to result in the wrecking ball for one of their favorite local venues. They note a perceived disconnect between the convention center and the emerging East End, and then eliminate the nearest feature of that sought-after urban fabric.
In good faith I assume there are solid answers to all of these questions, and the plan suggests several exciting elements that will greatly enhance the downtown landscape if they are pursued. But what should the role of the public be in such a planning process? I was surprised to see that citizens were not listed as stakeholders, and only one public input meeting was cited in the report. The results of that meeting were not outlined, and so after 97 pages it is unclear how the proposal incorporates the perspective of local consumers.
We should use the assets we have, such as our visually appealing and unique historic buildings, to invest in permanent businesses and living spaces. Unnecessary parking lots flatline the heartbeat of downtown, no matter how they are used, and send the wrong message about the vision and direction we want for our city.