There are 17,596 parking spaces in downtown Fort Wayne, according to an American Structurepoint study commissioned by the city, but if you’re the person circling the block over and over looking for a spot, that’s not enough.
“Parking is one of those things that people don’t care about until it’s not there,” redevelopment manager Joe Giant told a small group of people who gathered Oct. 29 at Citizen’s Square to hear the study’s preliminary findings.
“It’s a really wonderful problem to have,” he said. “We are growing like we haven’t grown in a long time. We have new residences, lots of new employees, festival goers, so one of the things we have to deal with is the increased demand for parking.”
Because of that momentum, it’s a good time to take stock of what downtown has in terms of inventory,” said Katie Clark, director of landscape architecture at American Structurepoint.
The downtown’s parking inventory includes 752 on-street parking spaces and 6,714 off-street parking spaces in surface lots and garages that are available to the public. The remainder, about 62 percent of the total, are reserved, usually for employees at businesses in downtown buildings.
Some of those reserved spaces are added to what’s available to the public in the evenings or on weekends, “but at key points during the day and at certain locations during the day and at events it becomes a real crunch point,” Clark said
Off-street parking lots are scattered all over the downtown area. The study breaks them down into four categories: publicly controlled, such as those owned by city or county government; shared parking facilities, managed by private entities but with spaces provided for public use; restricted parking (lots or garages reserved during the day); and privately controlled facilities owned and managed by parking operators.
The city may invest in or negotiate over shared parking facilities, but there’s not a lot of city control of the private facilities, Clark said.
The inventory of parking available downtown also is subject to change. Growth downtown could mean that some off-street lots now available will be replaced by new buildings. “They become kind of a hot topic when we sell or develop land,” Clark said.
One of the things the study revealed is that some off-street parking available to the public is well-known, and some is virtually unknown because signs don’t clearly identify it. American Structurepoint estimated that 320 spaces fall into the unknown category. Many drivers bypass it because they are not comfortable with parking there, Clark said.
So, just improving signs to make sure drivers know where public parking is available in effect creates more inventory, Giant said.
“We’re at that point in the study where we know the inventory and we have a good understanding of the numbers we’re working with, but what we need to understand too is what could happen in the future,” Clark said. Through modeling and projections, the company is trying to gauge that future need and develop strategies to meet it.
Those include short-term strategies such as policies, partnerships and pricing structures, as well as long-term strategies, such as the construction of future facilities.
Following the presentation, those attending were invited to view exhibits outlining different elements of the parking issue and discuss their concerns and opinions with American Structurepoint representatives. The study is expected to be completed by the end of the year.