story by Will Carter, special to The City Wire
FAYETTEVILLE — As the city’s Mayoral race heats up, the parking garage planned for the “entertainment district” of Fayetteville continues to come to the forefront as a key issue.
It may not be on incumbent mayor Lioneld Jordan’s agenda to fight the moans and groans of the planned parking garage, but Dan Coody is giving him no choice but to defend his project that looks to become official in the months ahead.
The city of Fayetteville is planning to sell initial bonds to finance the parking garage project, which is estimated to cost over $10 million dollars.
Jordan plans to begin the design phase as soon as a permanent location has been chosen for the garage, and the city planners have narrowed the choices to about four separate spots that all position themselves for convenience to the Walton Arts Center and Dickson Street.
“We are currently working with the Walton Arts Center, as well as the University of Arkansas to have a planned location to present to the city council by August”, says Jordan.
Coody has spent much of his time recently educating patrons and city officials of Fayetteville about other options to add parking to the entertainment district. Coody believes that by adding additional parking spots on streets such as West, as well as utilizing parking areas that we currently have (library parking deck), there could be enough spots to match the 300 estimated spots that would be added with a parking garage.
“Accessibility to downtown and Dickson (Street) could be fixed through updating sidewalks and adding street lights for safety”, he said. “One--third of the cost of the garage could fix the streets and sidewalks to accommodate more parking and safer access to the area.”
Encouraging patrons to visit the entertainment district through easy accessibility is one of the main priorities behind building the parking garage. Coody believes that not having enough parking is not what is keeping people from visiting the area.
“If you want to get people downtown, fix the paid parking situation”, Coody said.
He attributes most of the visitor’s distress to the entertainment district’s confusing paid parking program that was implemented on Jordan’s term. Many of the parking lots are public, while others are private, allowing each lot to have different hours and fees for parking throughout the day.
Mayor Jordan says he is not looking to get into a political battle over the issue of the parking garage, but rather just state the facts to why he believes the area could use more space for parking.
“There is soon to be a large apartment unit on Lafayette (Street) that will add 900 new units, and the University of Arkansas is looking to grow their population by 1,000 students per year”, says Jordan. “This is going to put a burden on the parking situation of the Dickson Street area”.
According to Jordan, Dickson Street businesses are up 9.93% in hotel, motel and restaurant (HMR) taxes on a yearly average, and the city of Fayetteville made $902,000 in revenue from the paid parking program in the last year.
While Fayettevillian’s like Coody are discouraging the addition of a new parking garage, others are embracing the idea of giving accessibility to their patrons.
“Walton Arts Center looks forward to having a new parking deck in the entertainment district. Parking is a key issue for our patrons and for all of Dickson Street. A new parking deck allows for continued expansion of Walton Arts Center’s facilities, programs and audiences, and for on-going growth in the entertainment district as a whole”, says Beth Goodwin, public relations manager to the Walton Arts Center.