story by Will Carter, special to The City Wire
It’s no secret that recent efforts to develop a new parking garage on Dickson Street in Fayetteville, has brought on much debate. Mayoral candidate Dan Coody let it be known Thursday evening at the Fayetteville Public Library that he has his own opinions on what he would like to see done to better the future of the so called “entertainment district” of Fayetteville.
“I’m not against a parking garage, but I am against doing a parking garage poorly”, says Coody.
According to Coody, the city of Fayetteville is planning on selling initial bonds set aside for the parking garage project as early as June. It estimated that the project will cost over $10 million dollars, and would almost certainly mean that the controversial paid parking program throughout downtown and Dickson is here to stay.
Andrew Georgiadis of Dover Kohl & Partners, a town planning company out of Miami, was brought in by Coody to bring a new strategy on how to make parking in and around Dickson Street more efficient without having to build an added parking garage.
“Reformation of parking structures add enough parking spaces to render the need of a new parking garage”, says Georgiadis.
The firm that Georgiadis represents has spent much of their time in Fayetteville, studying the current street and parking usage that we already have. Georgiadis emphasized that current parking places, such as the parking garage behind the Dickson are hardly being used as it is.
Dover Kohl & Partners are also working to bring more habitation to the Dickson area. Several of the projects mentioned Thursday night were row houses that would hide the parking garage structure if built.
“We need to add culture beyond the bars to Dickson Street, says Coody.
Coody has also asked Jeffrey Huber, Assistant director of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center to develop a transportation system for the heart of Fayetteville.
By Huber’s estimations, Fayetteville will reach 125,000 people by 2030. Unless we ever get a public transit system in Fayetteville, we will never truly be a sustainable city, says Huber, who is suggesting a light rail system be put in place.
Northwest Arkansas spent 29 percent of its annual income on transportation last year, which is significantly higher than the 19 percent national average. According to Huber, cities that have an established rail system spend 16 percent of their annual income on transportation.
The suggested rail system would run up and down College Ave., and through the downtown and Dickson Street area.
“Education of transportation is vital to bringing Northwest Arkansas from a 1950’s transit model, to a more current model, said David Orr, an Environmental Activist that spent much of his past year campaigning for the proposed transportation tax that was recently voted down.
When it came time for the people of the community to raise their concerns, it seemed unanimous that an added parking garage was unwanted, with many people agreeing that we already have way too much unused parking space around the area.
The issue of paid parking was also a main concern, with most of the people stating that the system in place is confusing and needs to be changed.
Coody shed light on the paid parking situation, stating that the parking system in place seems to be “inconsistent”.
“All in all, we need to get back to learning from other great cities like Austin, Seattle, and even the nearby college town of Colombia, Missouri”, said Coody.
To see more of the proposed plans and designs by the University Community Design Center visit: www.uacdc.uark.edu